The Daily Herald from Chicago, Illinois on May 28, 2001 · Page 48
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The Daily Herald from Chicago, Illinois · Page 48

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Chicago, Illinois
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Monday, May 28, 2001
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Page 48
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PAGE 4 SECTION 1 DAILY HERALD MONDAY, MAY 28, 2001 F12M Murder: Search for former boyfriend extends across America Continuedfrom Fbge 1 whomever killed them is free. "After eight years, I'mstill waiting," she said. "Why is it taking so long? "I know the officer who is on my daughter's case. She's doing what she can," Charneco 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 July 23,1993, was a Friday night, and the last night Susan Charneco saw her daughter alive. Carmen left her family's Carpentersville home on Harrison Street early in the evening. Like a movie in her head, Susan Charneco 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 door to go visit a friend, she called out, "Mom, I'll be back." "I said, 'I love you, girl,'" Susan Charneco 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 job at Handy Andy, so they didn't try to wake her, Charneco 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 car accident. "Then, he told me the news, that she was murdered." Stymied investigation Carmen Charneco had spent the evening hours that Friday night hanging out at a friend's house in Carpentersville. She stayed there until shortly after midnight and then headed home, Griffith said. What happened after she left her friend's house remains a mystery. About 5 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 cannot reveal 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 police 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, according to DaMeiald FOUNDED 1872 Daily Herald (USPS 032020) is published daily by Paddock Publications Inc. SUBSCRIPTION RATES Carrier home delivery rate $4.30 per week 8 Weeks $34.40 Mail delivery in Cook County 8 weeks/S36.80 Mail zone 1 (DuPage, Lake, Kane, McHenry counties) 8 woeks/S39.60 Mail zone 1-4 8 weeks/$44.00 Mail zone 5-8 8 weeks/$54.00 Back Issues available by phone order only. All back issue.orders must be prepaid. DAILY HERALD (USPS 032020) is published daily for $239.20 per year by Paddock Publications Inc., 155 E. Algonquin Road, P.p. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006. Periodicals postage paid at Arlington Heights, IL. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to DAILY HERALD, P.O. BOX 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 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 might appear like if dressed as a woman. Kane County court documents. He spent 16 months in prison for a 1991 Kane County felony conviction of aggravated discharge of aweapon, according to state records. He was paroled Jan. 8,1993. Four months later, he was arrested by Elgin police and charged with felony mob action. That charge is still outstanding, and one more reason authorities want him apprehended. Griffith said FBI agents across the nation and 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. Over the years, 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, but we'd just missed him." 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't think so,'" Griffith said. Then, further investigation revealed gang members on the run fre- quendy dress like women when they travel. Now, Rodriguez's wanted poster includes a photo illustration depicting what he might look like dressed as a xvoman. 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 workfor the victim. Our job is to speak for the victim. We want to solve this forthe victim and her family. "They say luck plays a big part in our job, but I believe if you work hard enough, you will make your own luck," she said. "I think we've worked very hard on this, and it still hasn't happened." A mother's plea A few months after Carmen's murder, Susan Charneco moved with her husband to David Charneco's native Puerto Rico, which also was where Rodriguez reportedly had been spotted. While she didn't move to Puerto Rico to search for Rodriguez, Susan Charneco admits that during the four years she and David lived there, she tried to make her own luck, just like Griffith. "Anytime I'd be walking around, I'd be looking at all the faces," she said. "He couldhavebeen in so many places, buthe was from Puerto Rico." How to help • If you have information about the Carmen Charneco case, call the Illinois State Police toll-free hotline at 1-866-268-2379. • A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the capture of Edwin Acevedo Rodriguez. Eventually, she and David returned to the United States, but instead of moving back to the Fox Valley, the couple settled out of state. Fearing gang retribution, she asked that the state's name be kept confidential. She was clear, however, aboutwhy she didn't come back to the Chicago area. "It hurts no matter where I'm at," she said. "But when I'm in Illinois, there are too many memories, like going to the (Spring Hill) mall. We used to go there all the time. I cannot even drive past there now. "It just rips my heart out," she said. That'pain is why Griffith receives weekly phone calls from Susan Charneco. "I'm not givingup hope, so I'm not going to let anybody rest," Charneco said. "When I put on the Christian music my daughter likes, (David) has to leave the room because he starts crying. Even today. "The other day, I put (Carmen's favorite) song in, and he said, 'I'm going downstairs.' You could see the tears in his eyes," she said. Charneco repeatedly urges anyone with information that would help solve her daughter's murder to come forward. "Please, from a mother's heart, if they know anything, anything at all, talk to the officers. Please, please, please, please talk to them," she said. 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