Amber alert issued for three Chicago children

Mother died of blunt force trauma
April 22, 2008 4:06:11 PM PDT
Three children whose mother was found murdered are still missing as of Tuesday evening. Police issued an Amber Alert Monday for 6-year-old Oscar Casanova, 7-year-old Karla Casanova and 11-year-old Fernando Casanova, who have been missing since Friday. The body of their mother, Sophia Garcia, 30, was found Monday. A plastic bag was over her head.

A medical examiner ruled Tuesday that Garcia died of blunt force trauma and ruled the death a homicide.

Officials want to talk to Garcia's husband, Benito Casanova, 32. He is the father of two of the children. He is not considered a murder suspect, according to police, but officials believe the children are traveling with him in a silver or gray 2002 Dodge Dakota with Illinois License Plate No. 86196HB. Police said one of the license plates is missing from the car. He may be headed to Mexico.

Garcia had an order of protection, which was filed more than a year ago, against Casanova. The order included threats of violence Casanova had made to Garcia and stated Casanova was not allowed contact with the children. However, the two continued to live together in the Humboldt Park home in the 1700-block of North Harding, according to neighbors.

"I'm very concerned about the kids. Some of the moms were very close to this woman," said Sara Skomsvold, friend.

The children were last seen on Friday leaving Yates Elementary School.

"The mother normally picked them up. If the mother wasn't here, they would come back to the room and wait for her. There's nothing that tells us that there was foul play. They left the building on their own, and they left willingly," said Harry Randell, Yates School principal. Randell says Casanova was authorized to pick up two of the children from school.

Crisis counselors were at Yates Elementary School on Tuesday to help students cope with the disappearance of their classmates.

"We have grief for the family, but my concern right now is that the children are found safe," said Randell.

"I can't believe it, you know. Those kids are so smart. Very good kids. They loved mom," said Josephine Martinez, victim's neighbor.

Friends have set up a memorial near the family's apartment. Neighbors said the family has lived in the Humboldt Park apartment for a few months.

"It's unbelievable. You would never think this would happen in your neighborhood," said Luis Hernandez, neighbor.

Anyone with information is asked to call 312-746-8282.


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