Tow driver says he feared for his life as he drove around woman accused of dismembering landlord

Antonio Coria says he sensed "an evil presence" the night he believes he was almost murdered.

He had been hired Monday to pick up Sandra Kolalou on the Northwest Side and bring her to Foster Beach, where her SUV needed to be towed. The night ended with Kolalou allegedly coming at him with a pocketknife and Coria fending her off with a stick.

Only later did he learn that Kolalou had called him just hours after killing and dismembering Frances Walker, the 69-year-old owner of a boarding home, according to police and prosecutors.

"I don’t know what she could’ve done, but I didn’t think it was going to be something like that," Coria, 24, said. "It’s like something out of a movie."

A phone call and a cryptic warning

Coria tells his story carefully, filled with details backed by police reports and court documents. An assistant public defender has said those details add up to a "largely circumstantial" case against Kolalou.

From the start, Coria said, things didn’t seem right when he arrived at the boarding house in the 5900 block of North Washtenaw Avenue Monday evening.

Walker had already been reported missing, and two squad cars were parked outside. The officers told Coria they wanted to talk to Kolalou. As they waited for her to come out, Coria handed out cards to residents, hoping to curry new business.

Kolalou soon emerged from the wood-frame house with a black bag. She told the officers she couldn’t stop because the tow truck was waiting, but eventually she consented to a search of her room, Coria recalled.

The officers "found nothing incriminating" and sent her on her way, prosecutors have said.

In the truck, Kolalou seemed fine but talked about having argued with Walker. She claimed she went to Foster Beach after the spat and her SUV stopped working.

Then one of Kolalou’s neighbors, dialing the number on Coria’s card, called with a warning. The night ended with Kolalou allegedly coming at him with a pocketknife and Coria fending her off with a stick. Only later did he realize he may have escaped an even grislier fate.

"I feel like [Kolalou] must have done something to [Walker] because she’s now gone missing," the neighbor told Coria, speaking in Spanish so Kalalou wouldn’t understand.

"So please be careful," the neighbor added. "And if she does anything suspicious, let me know."

‘Very sinister’

Still, Coria said he didn’t get the impression anything was seriously wrong until Kolalou took the black bag and dumped the contents into a nearby trash can. She carried the bag back to the truck.

Why, he wondered, would she carry trash from her home to the beach. He called the neighbor and told her about the strange behavior.

By the time Coria and Kolalou arrived at an auto shop at Touhy and Western avenues, Coria said he got a call from an officer urging him to "stall" until officers could get there.

Coria said he pointed out Kolalou to the responding officers and she started acting "finicky," insisting she’d already talked to the police. Coria said she was let go again, but the mechanics declined to work on her SUV.

"She had a look in her face that was just very sinister," Coria said. "I was just looking at her, and she was just giving me a look that was like, you’re next. And I was just like, what the f—’s going on with this lady?"

Coria told her he was going to drop her car off near Western and Estes avenues and offered to give her a ride home. But after parking and grabbing a receipt from his glove box, Coria said "the whole energy in the truck just shifted. It changed. Everything just felt worse."

Kolalou handed over a credit card while, with her other hand, she gripped something with a red handle, Coria said. "I’m just looking at the card," he said. "As soon as I notice the name, it says Frances Walker. … I’m just getting this feeling that something is going to happen to me."

Coria hopped out of his truck to write the receipt, he said. Kolalou followed, stepping "super close" to him with her hands tucked into her pockets. Coria said he yelled for her to step back while using a stick to dislodge her wheels from the truck. Kolalou then realized police officers had been tailing them and she began berating Coria about moving her SUV elsewhere.

Kolalou then pulled her hands out of her pockets as Coria used the stick to keep her at bay, he said. "I’m just yelling, hey officers, officers," he said. "I’m pretty sure she has a knife in her f—ing hands."

Kolalou was arrested and authorities said a pocketknife was found on her. She was charged with killing Walker after being served an eviction notice.

Kolalou’s ex-husband has told the Sun-Times he "cannot imagine" her doing what she is accused of. But Coria said he can’t shake the feeling he had that night.

"I felt an evil presence was in here, in the truck," he said. "Because as soon as I got out, I was normal again."