Northwest Side neighbors shocked to learn one of their own may have been slaying victim: 'I'm sick'
CHICAGO - When Greg moved to Arcadia Terrace about two years ago he quickly became friends with a woman walking her small terrier in the Northwest Side neighborhood.
"Our dogs liked each other, and ever since then whenever I’d see her I’d say hi and chat," said Greg, who asked to be identified only by his first name.
"She was always a pleasant person to run into, she always had something good to say," he said, adding that she would often pick up trash she found on the street. "She was a person of faith, and I think it showed."
On Monday evening, police discovered bloody rags along the lakefront and human remains in a freezer inside a boarding house in Arcadia Terrace, as they searched for the building’s owner, turning a missing person case into a homicide investigation.
When Greg heard from a neighbor that police were investigating a murder in the neighborhood, he was shocked to learn that the victim may be the sweet woman he’d come to know, and who he’d just seen a few days ago. "I’m sick," Greg said.
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The woman — who hasn’t formally been identified — is the owner of the building and believed to be the victim, Chicago Police Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan told reporters Tuesday. She was found about 7 p.m. Monday in the 5900 block of North Washtenaw Avenue, police said.
Deenihan said a suspect who lived in the boarding house — and frightened other residents — was taken into custody after pulling a knife on a tow truck driver allegedly hired to move a "large plastic bag" to Foster Beach, where bloody rags were found in a garbage can.
A resident of the boarding house reported the owner missing Monday, Deenihan said. She hadn’t been seen for roughly a day. Detectives confirmed she’d been seen "walking around the neighborhood on Sunday."
Deenihan said the resident who made the report pointed investigators to a neighbor "the other tenants were afraid of." They said the person "had recently called a tow truck" to haul off "a heavy bag."
"We learned that this individual dumped a large plastic bag in a garbage can at Foster Beach," Deenihan said. "And detectives were able to go to that garbage can and see that there were some bloody towels in that garbage can."
The can and its contents were then taken to the Cook County medical examiner’s office for further investigation, Deenihan said.
Detectives began searching the suspect’s room in the boarding house and "discovered human remains in a freezer," Deenihan said. The investigators then left and obtained a search warrant "to go back in and retrieve all of [the] evidence properly."
On Monday night, the tow truck driver reported to police that the suspect had pulled a knife on him, Deenihan said. The suspect was taken into custody but has declined to speak to detectives.
"We have a long way to go, but obviously we believe that the missing person is … unfortunately the individual we discovered," Deenihan said.
Greg braved the rain Tuesday evening and stood in front of the woman’s home. He was there to pay respects to a "giving, kind, positive woman" who helped him stay afloat when he lost his mother, he said.
Crime scene tape hangs from the porch of a home at 5919 N. Washtenaw Ave. in the Arcadia Terrace neighborhood on the Northwest Side, Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 11, 2022. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Other neighbors described the woman as a friendly person who loved to tend to her garden and welcomed visitors with a smile. She played piano at churches in the area and had just been to Bulgaria with her husband, neighbors said. The husband told the Sun-Times on Tuesday that he was still in Europe but declined to comment further.
"I don’t know why someone would want to do that to her, she was extremely nice, she would always be happy," said Cecilia Soto. "It’s incredible that someone would do something like that to her. She was nice to everybody on the block."
Soto said she and her family would go over to the woman’s house for ice cream. They had just been over to the woman’s house to help her with her garden, she said.
Miranda Castillo said that although she didn’t know the woman well, it was heartbreaking to hear of her neighbor’s death. "She would always say hi to us. She was so harmless."
Castillo said everybody on the block would have a kind word to say about the woman.
"She will be missed" Soto said.