CHICAGO - In Chicago, where shootings and murders happen by the minute, a violent death can quickly become just a number when no one comes forward to help police solve a crime.
However, for the families of the victims, nothing could be further from the truth. They want you to help in catching the killers.
“I think about her every morning,” said Carlos Sorto, Aaren O’Connor’s boyfriend. “I think about her every morning as if she was right there. She's the sun to my day. The last person I think about when I go to sleep. She's always on my mind.”
To this day, Sorto’s heart still hurts. He thought he had found the love of his life until someone murdered her a little more than three and a half years ago.
“What I had to do at the hospital was I had to see her pass away,” said Sorto. “I saw her covered in her own blood from bullet injuries. One of the worst things I had to do actually was I had to pick out her body from the morgue and identify her. I had to see her when she wasn't prepped for viewing or anything like that, while they were working on her.”
O'Connor was fatally shot while doing what so many of us do, sitting in her car, talking on the phone. Her vehicle was parked near 21st and Damen in the Pilsen neighborhood around 7:30 p.m. What she didn't know is that while she was talking on the phone, just a few feet behind her was a man, pointing a gun at someone else standing a few feet in front of her.
And when the bullets fly, one of them hits O’Connor in the head and the wound is fatal.
Detective Will Johnson of Area Central says O’Connor was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Yeah, we don't believe that she was the intended target,” said Detective Johnson. “We believe he was, the shooter was shooting at what he thought was rival gang members."
Johnson is a seasoned detective of CPD. He has seen a lot of crime. However, this particular case really bothers him.
“You really want to solve every case we get of course, but in this case, in particular, a truly innocent person sitting in a car talking to her family,” said Detective Johnson. “Moves here from California, and gets a stray bullet, and winds up being killed. She's a young woman, I have children her age, so, I mean, it's definitely something we want solved."
The area is riddled with gangs and those who live there know it, making them afraid to come forward. Police have had to rely on physical evidence.
"We believe the shooter used a 35 caliber handgun because we located approximately 3-35 caliber expended shell cases approximately right where I’m standing,” said Detective Johnson. “And our investigation revealed that the shooter is a male Hispanic, Satan Disciple gang member.
To this day, the neighborhood still has posters asking people to come forward on the case. O’Connor was fairly new to Chicago, moving here just two years before her murder to be with Sorto. The pair met while studying abroad in Japan.
O’Connor was fluent in Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish. The two bonded and dated long-distance until she decided to move to Chicago. On the day the shooting happened, he rushed to her side where doctors gave him the grim news.
“He just told me straight up, she was shot in the temple, in the head,” said Sorto. “These injuries are fatal and she's going to die today. Just very bluntly, nothing to sugar coat it. When you hear that, you don't really understand it right away.”
However, what he does understand is the fear felt by those afraid to come forward. Today, he pleads for them to help, not just for him, but for their own families.
“Someone who is still walking around and hasn't been captured for what they did and could do again to someone else,” said Sorto.
O’Connor’s family is from California and talking on camera about this case was simply too difficult for them.
The father, we understand, is frustrated with the fact that no one is charged at this point. However, police say while they have some evidence, they really need people to come forward and give them that piece of information they need to put the man they think did this behind bars.