The Daily Herald from Chicago, Illinois on May 28, 2001 · Page 46
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The Daily Herald from Chicago, Illinois · Page 46

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Monday, May 28, 2001
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MONDAY, MAY 28, 2001 DAILYHERALD SECTION 1 PAGE 5 03 Murder remains unsolved after eight years Carmen Charneco BY DAVID R. KAZAK Daily Herald Ijgal Affairs Writer In summer 1993, Dundee-Crown High School graduate Carmen Chameco clung to her dreams as tightly as any other 18-year-old. No obstacles — not even an unplanned pregnancy — could discourage those dreams, which included learning the travel business so she could take her family on trips around the world. With an eye on the future, Carmen worked hard on her present by shedding her past, said her mother, Susan Chameco. Carmen got involved with church. She got a job at a Handy Andy store in Elgin. And she ended her relationship widi her unborn baby's father, a 20- year-old ex-convict and known gang member. "The baby," Susan Chameco remembered her daughter saying at the time, "is the blessing." Carmen Charneco never got to realize her dreams. Sometime during the pre-dawn hours of July 24,1993, someone strangled her to death, leaving her body in her parked car on the east- boundshoulderofthe NorthwestToll- way near Elgin. Eight years later, the murder remains unsolved. Police and Carmen's family believe that's because one piece of the puzzle remains missing—Carmen's ex-boyfriend, Edwin Acevedo Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who is now 28, disappeared shortly after the night Illinois State Police Trooper Michael Victory found Charneco's body during a routine patrol. Since days after the murder, state and federal investigators have followed Rodriguez's trail from Elgin, where he lived at the time, to Aurora, Chicago, New York City and Puerto Rico. State Police MasterSgt Kathie Griffith is quick to point out that Rodriguez has not been charged with lolling Charneco. He's wanted only for questioning, Griffith said. Still, Rodriguez's importance to Chameco murder investigation is emphasized by the latest state police wanted poster, which lists Rodriguez as one of the state's 10 most wanted fugitives. The poster mentions — in small type near the bottom—an 8-year-old outstanding Illinois Department of Corrections arrest warrant charging Rodriguez with a parole violation. Printed across the top, in bold type, is the reason a man charged with violating his parole ranks among the state's top 10 fugitives: "Wanted For Questioning, Homicide, EdwinAceve- do Rodriguez." DAILY HERALD PHOTO/PATRICK KUNZER After eight years, the strangulation murder of 18-year-old Carpentersville resident Carmen Charneco remains unsolved. Even Griffith, who has been searching for Rodriguez since she took over the Charneco investigation more than seven years ago, admits suspicion is hard to ignore in the face of Rodriguez's years-longflight "He'smade himself asuspect," Griffith said, "because he left town suddenly, and he hasn't been seen since." Susan Chameco knows only this: Her only daughter and unborn grandchild, Giovanni, are dead, and whomever killed them is free. "After eight years, I'm still waiting," shesaid. "Why is it taking so long? "I know the officer who is on my daughter's case. She's doing what she can," Chameco said. "I know (Griffith) is just as frustrated as I am, but that frustration isn't a parent's frustration. "Why, to find one person, just one person, is it taking so long?" she repeatedly asked. Griffith said she knows the question well. For now, however, she doesn't have an answer. The worst news of all Jury 23,1993, was a Friday night, and the last night Susan Charneco sawher daughter alive. Carmen left her family's Carpentersville home on Harrison Street early in the evening. Like a movie in her head, Susan Chameco said she remembers every detail about that night Carmen wore yellow denim shorts that were a little longer than most shorts, a white blouse and sandals. Susan Charneco was doing the dishes. As Carmen walked out the doortogovisitafriend, she called out, "Mom, I'll be back." "I said, 'I love you, girl,'" Susan Chameco recalled. "She said, 'I love you too, Mom.'" Saturday morning, as Susan and her husband, David, each left for work, they saw their daughter's bedroom door was closed and assumed Carmen was inside, sleeping. She was always good about getting up in time for her telephone operator Left, how Edwin Acevedo Rodriguez looked in 1993. The center photo is age-enhanced to what he might look like today. The photo on the right shows what he may appear like if dressed as a woman. job at Handy Andy, so they didn't try to wake her, Chameco said. They left the house not knowing Carmen's room was unoccupied. During Charneco's lunch hour later that day, one of her co-workers approached and said, "Sue, there's someone here who wants to talk to you." "I walked into my manager's office and all of a sudden I saw a police officer, " Charneco said. "He started asking me about my daughter, and my first thought was that she'd had a caracci- dent "Then, he told me the news, that she was murdered." . Stymied investigation Carmen Chameco had spent the eveninghoursthatFridaynighthang- ing out at a friend's house in Carpentersville. She stayed there until shortly after midnight and then headed home, Griffith said. Whathappened aftershe left her friend's house remains a mystery. AboutS a.m. July 24, Trooper Victory was patrolling eastbound Northwest Tollway, just past the Route 25 entrance ramp, when he rolled up to what he thought was an abandoned car on the shoulder, Griffith said. The seat holding Carmen's body was adjusted all the way back and Carmen wasn't visible from the roadway. Griffith said she cannotreveal many details about what Victory found that night, but did say Carmen was found fully clothed, and that the car was unlocked. : In the days that followed, state po- 1 lice investigators, with the help of Elgin police detectives, interviewed Carmen's friends and family members, learning all they could about the slain teen. They delved into her personal life, and it wasn't long before they learned of her relationship with Rodriguez. So investigators fanned out to look for Rodriguez. They asked his family members whether they-knew where he was. They asked his fellow gang. members. But each warm lead eventually turned cold. "We had reports coming in saying he'd shaved his head and his eyebrows," Griffith said. "Then we heard he was staying in Aurora. Then in Chicago. Then Puerto Rico." At the time, Rodriguez was a 20-year-old who had a criminal record that included illegal drug and weapons convictions, ac- cordingtoKane County court documents., He spent 16 months in prison for a 1991 KaneCounty felony conviction of aggravated discharge ofaweapbn, according to state records. He was .paroled Jan. 8,1993. Four months lat- er.he was arrested byElgin police and charged with felony mob action. That charge is still outstanding, and one more reason authorities wanthim apprehended. Griffith said FBI agents across the nation arid in Puerto Rico have helped with the search, but they too have come up empty-handed, even after numerous reported sightings. "We're never in the right place at the right time," Griffith said. Overtheyears, investigators turned to television for help, placing Car^ men's story and the search for Rodriguez on'Spanish-language shows similar to "America's Most Wanted," The case even got a 60-second mention on "Unsolved Mysteries." A tip from that show led Griffith to a homeless shelter in New York City in August 1997. "We'd found out he was there, butwe'djustmissedhim." Since then, more sightings have been reported in Puerto Rico and Elgin, Griffith said. Authorities now think Rodriguez may be traveling disguised as a: woman to avoid detection. At first, Griffith thought that idea was ridiculous. "These are tough gang members, and they're dressing in drag? I said,,'I don'tthinkso,'" Griffith said. Then, further investigation revealed gang members on rnerunJrequently dress like .women when they travel Now, Rodriguez's wanted poster includes a photo illustration depicting what he might look like dressed as a woman. Still, as the eighth anniversary of Carmen's murder approaches, Rodriguez—and the closure police hope he can bring to the case—continues to elude investigators. "It's just highly frustrating," Griffith said. "We work for the victim. Our job is to speak for the victim. We want to solve this for the victim and her family. "They say luckplays abigpartin our job, but I believe if you work hard enough, you will make your ownluck," she said. "I think we've worked very hard on this, and it still hasn't happened." Prof Hing: Some states takin action before Congress ContinuedfiotnJfoge 1 i -' the issue seriously. •'••'"""••'','. Under one plan, police 3 depaft- ments ; cpuld lose their share of federal funding, and states -could jeopardize highway funds, if they do not sufficiently address racial .profiling. ~ " ? i- L ; So far, at least 15 states have,tak-_ en action to stop or study facial profiling, and 20. others have legislation pendtng. .' .. . . California, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Oregon have banned racial profiling. Arizoha's.attorney general signed a declaration renouncing it. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Wisconsin antf Maryland have ordered .police to adopt policies against racial profil-; ing..; ..-,•::- . ...''•:"••:•%:<; North 'Carolina, Missouri and Washington have instructed police to collect .statistics on who they stop and why. ;- • • 'r , •• Kansas and Rhode Island have launched studies. Some Illinois lawmakers want to take action before the federal government forces their hand. • ' •• . "I think law enforcement should -definitely watch what the Justice Department and Congress are doing in Washington," said state Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican' and sponsor'of one racial-prdfiling proposal.. •"•'. ••• . .'•'•• •-. • "It's much better that the Illinois' General Assembly deals witrrracial profiling than Washington does or — even worse — a federal judge who might be very anti-law enforcement." . . • • : Despite the concerns of law enforcement groups in Illinois',' ,the state House approved.the racial data collecting proposal - last month. . "_ r , A Senate committee also..endorsed the plan, but Senate President James "Pate" Philip, a Wood Dale Republican, appears hesitant to allow a vote before the full Senate until police groups sign off on it ' "We're trying to work put a compromise; it isn't easy," said Philip. :He added it would be unreason:'able to "add more paperwork to police officers." ; . •'•"'•: State Rep. Monique Davis, a Chicago Democrat and chief sponsor of the proposal, accused Philip of dismissing the issue:."This-will be the fourth time it passes the House and just gets waylaid in the Senate," she said'. : '..-"•" .' • Instead of creating a law regarding racial profiling, it's more likely Illinois will get a taskforce assigned to study the issue. State Attorney General Jim Ryan has proposed doing that as a way to come up with an agreement, and law enforcement supports the move. . Laimutis Nargelenas, manager : of governmental relations for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Po- licei disputes claims that racial profiling occurs in Illinois and said -, both sides need to be better educated. ,. "Our position is there is nothing wrong. We do use race as an identifier, but never for stopping," Nargelenas said. "There is a perception out there that it is occurring and we need to ..educate our minority community fhat they could file a complaint." . Nargelenas said asking officers, to ask people about their race interjects a sensitive issue : into the situation that need not : be there. But for Davis and several other black lawmakers, anything less ••••than requiring police "to . track whom they pull over is tantamount to not addressing the problem. . "It is very tragic when you have a . group of police officials who don't want to report data to the people of Illinois, "she said. "It's just very sad they are being resistant. It's tragic." » Daily Herald news services contributed to this report. Veterans: About 600 flags planted at ceremony Continued from Page I Memorial Day parade today in Wheaton. "We probably do about 600 flags," said Carol Stream resident Sandy Lykins, a Vietnam veteran who is charged with organizing the Memorial Day observance. He pointed out one grave, of U.S. Marine Corps Corporal William A. Mural: Residents recall days gone by in Naperville Continued from Ptige 1 the DuPage River, a scene depicted in the mural. Century Walk President Brand Bobosky said organizers expect to dedicate a three-piece sculpture called "Market Days" atNaperSettlement this summer. A stain ed-glass piece also is planned for the elevator shaft of the city's parking deckalongVan Buren Avenue. Mondero also shed light on the six soldier-like figures that appear on each side of the three panels. The stone men are holding up an arched roof above each scene, a metaphor of how residents and city leaders shoulder a burden or carry a load. "I thought they were the spirits, the strong spirits in all of us," Mondero said. "No matter what happens, we still survive." "GET PREPARED fOR SUMMER" PATIO DOOR REPAIR Cloudy Glftsi Worn Rollers Damaqnd Tracks Replaced Patio Door Repair Co. 630-629-7400 Wilson, that was surrounded by five flags, each one planted by a member of the color guard. 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