Special Report: Grieving Chicago families still seeking justice for loved ones
CHICAGO - Every week we hear about the number of shootings and fatal shootings in Chicago.
We also hear from family after family asking the system for justice for their lost loved one.
In a FOX 32 Special Report, Elizabeth Matthews finds out not every family gets a chance for that to happen.
"Nothing we do now will bring my brother back but," said Jennifer Ramirez. "We don’t want other families to go through what we are going through."
Chrys Carvajal, 19, had just finished his National Guard training when he was fatally shot outside of a party on the city’s Northwest Side on July 3, 2021.
Since then, his family held a wake for him on his 20th birthday, a vigil for him on 9/11 and a protest outside the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office as they waited to find out if a suspect would be charged with Chrys’ death.
The state attorney's office eventually issued a statement saying the case was reviewed and that murder charges would not be filed because the evidence received "was insufficient to meet our burden of proof."
"We don’t understand what more evidence they need," Jennifer said. "There’s eye witnesses. Video surveillance. Three people spoke up … no one was interested in the money … the cell phones. They were pinged in the same area at the same time."
There are other families who are also asking the same question as they try to get justice for a family member.
"He went to work every day. He was very family oriented," said Rochella Palmer. "He was very close to his family."
Just like the Carvajal family, Rochella and her family are trying to understand why the state’s attorney hasn’t charged anyone with the death of her son, Tremayne, despite all the evidence they say police have.
"They have plenty of evidence. Even more evidence than what was told," said Anthony Palmer, the victim’s brother. "They have the shoe with the blood in it."
"The police actually pinged my brother’s cell phone and found it pinged in the apartment where they did the murder at," he added.
"And someone came forward to say what happened in that apartment," Rochella said. "And even with that … the states attorney did not take the case."
Tremayne’s body was found on the morning of April 13, 2021 in a drainage tunnel on a vacant lot near 124th and Torrence. According to the police report, it was wrapped in two comforters and bound with nylon rope. There was one gunshot wound to his face.
Just like in the Carvajal case, the state's attorney's office stated the evidence "was insufficient to meet our burden of proof."
"There’s no specific articulable standard. You can’t open up a book which says you need three of these and two of these and four of these in order to establish probable cause," said Richard Kling.
Kling is a clinical professor of law at Kent College and a practicing defense attorney.
"The prosecutor is the executive branch of the government," Kling said. "They make the decision what charges to file or whether to file charges at all."
"It’s entirely up to the discretion of the prosecutor under the Constitution," he added.
Fox 32 Chicago analyzed a four-year sample of Chicago Police Department homicide investigations that were reviewed by Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's administration and her predecessor, Anita Alvarez. Overall, we found more homicide cases are being rejected by the current state’s attorney — sometimes with as much as a 15-percent difference
We sent Foxx’s office a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to find out what are the reasons why her staff will reject a request for homicide charges. In an email, they told us this information is not available since "this is not something we track on systemic scale."
"I know families can become frustrated. Families lose a member and their attitude is somebody has got to pay," Kling said. "And maybe somebody does have to pay. But they don’t have to pay until the prosecutor comes to the conclusion we’re pretty convinced this guy did it."
For grieving families, it can be hard to wait and see if that happens.
"We are not going to forget Chyrs Caravajal," said his mother Lourdes Lara. "We not going to give up."
"I need closure and I need justice," said Tremayne’s mother Rochella. "I need justice for my son … and it’s like they just don’t care."
In the both the Carvajal and Palmer cases, the state’s attorney's office did add it could file charges at a later time if they receive more evidence.
So what options do you have if you've lost a loved one and no murder charges are filed? Legal experts say you could file a civil suit. You could also file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General's Office regarding your crime victim rights.
For more information on what those right are, visit here: https://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/victims/
Our analysis of Chicago homicide cases rejected by Foxx’s office found as much as 28-percent were rejected in 2019.
According to the latest numbers posted on the Cook County State's Attorney's website, 26-percent of all CPD murder cases have been rejected so far this year.