Nearly two months after the murders at the Lane Bryant store in Tinley Park, police are no closer to finding a suspect. But Tuesday, the family of one victim - Carrie Hudek Chiuso - shared their thoughts on the motive and the man behind the mass murder. They are also hoping stores will take simple steps that may discourage future violent robberies. This is the first time Chiuso's family has granted a television interview since the murders.
Police have pursued 2,100 leads. But none, as of yet, has led to the killer. So Chiuso's family is trying to turn its focus from heartbreak to hope.
"Unless someone has gone through this, you don't know the pain. It's devastating," said Penny Hudek, victim's mother.
Penny and Don Hudek say the pain of their daughter's death is like an anchor that weighs them down every single day. And there have been 51 days since Carrie Hudek Chiuso made what was supposed to be a quick stop a the Lane Bryant clothing store before heading to her niece's birthday party.
"Talk about senseless, I can't even think of the 'why' because I can't go there. There's no answer," said father Don Hudek.
"There's more to this story than we and other families know, but somebody is helping this man. My plea to them is to turn him in. There are five other families going through what we are," said brother Mike Hudek.
The Hudeks said they hope Lane Bryant and other retail stores will make a small investment in security cameras or panic alarms. It's believed the killer spent at least 20 minutes with his victims.
"Had they had something where they could have notified police, they may not have deterred him but they certainly would have had a better chance of catching the guy," said Don Hudek.
Chiuso was a social worker at her alma mater, Homewood-Flossmoor High School. Her husband, Tony, is in school now continuing his pursuit of a special education degree so he can one day help kids at the same school.
"I want to make her proud, to fulfill my life and dreams of what together we planned on doing," said Tony Chiuso.
Carrie and her husband married a year and a half before the murders. Tony and Carrie miscarried just two months before her death. The day after Carrie died, her brother's wife went into labor. They had a little girl who they named in her aunt's honor.
"I wouldn't wish that on anyone, to bring such incredible joy while on the flipside such incredible sorrow is pretty tough to deal with," said Mike Hudek.
One woman's death means an entire family's grief.
"It's like standing in an ocean and a wave hits you," said Don Hudek. "It's not going to bring her back, but he's got to get off the street, put in a corner somewhere and just left alone."
"When this guy, this killer, this scum, he killed thIs family we had with Carrie. Now we have to build a new family without her," said Penny Hudek.
Like the other women, Carrie Hudek Chiuso's Saturday seemed ordinary until the gunman hushed them and herded them into a back room.
Penny Hudek heard about the shooting from a friend and raced to the shopping center. Information was hard to come by, but then she saw her daughter's car parked in front of the Lane Bryant store.
"I pretty much knew. I looked at Michael and shook my head and said, 'This isn't good,'" she said.
For 51 days, nearly 50 investigators have worked to find the Lane Bryant killer. Together, they've logged 30,000 hours on the case. The cost of the investigation has surpassed $400,000. Are the police any closer to catching the killer?
"Is it going to be a month, is it going to be tomorrow? We don't know," said Chief Michael O'Connell, Tinley Park Police.
O'Connell says he believes the sketch of the suspect is generally accurate. But as a recent arrest in Las Vegas showed, just because someone may look like the Lane Bryant killer doesn't mean he is the right man. So, detectives continue to filter through 2,100 leads. They're all logged, categorized and investigated.
"We don't know where he is from. Could he be here, local, now staying right in our back yard? Very possibly, but we don't know that. And that's why we go national and local to make sure we get the information out as much as we can," said O'Connell.
The Hudek-Chiuso family has also launched a college scholarship fund for students at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. The idea came to them when Chiuso's current and former students packed into her seven-hour long wake.
"It made me so happy knowing she made an impact on so many lives. She never came home and wanted a pat on the back. She just went about her business," said Tony Chiuso.
Carrie Chiudo's family hopes her legacy will continue to help create opportunities for Homewood-Flossmoor High School students. They've set up a scholarship fund in her honor and are planning a series of fundraisers.
First Annual Carrie Fest
Sunday, May 4, 2008
4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
CD & ME, 23320 S. LaGrange Road, Frankfort, Ill. 60423
Entertainment: Maggie Speaks, Final Say and Spoken Four
21 years and older Carrie's Fund Tinley Park Police Dept.