Chicago police crack old murder case

July 11, 2008 3:08:09 PM PDT
Chicago police have made an arrest in a 17-year-old murder. DNA matching was used to solve the murder of a well-known Chicago jeweler.

Harry Levinson was stabbed to death in June of 1991 by a man who broke into his family's North Side home. The 94-year-old man and his 84-year-old wife were attacked as they slept in a second-floor master bedroom. His wife, Marilyn, was beaten in the attack but survived.

The attacker robbed the couple and stole their car.

The break in the case was credited to cold case units in the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County state's attorney's cold case unit.

The suspect is Michael Gonzalez, who is currently in Stateville prison serving time for armed robbery.

Levinson was the 371st person murdered in Chicago in 1991 - a year which would record 923 homicides. Levinson's was a "heater" case - an elderly businessman brutally slain in his home, a killer at large and a lot of media attention. Then it all went cold, until now.

Police didn't have much, but they had some prints and something else the killer left.

"He injured himself entering the apartment when he broke out a window, and there was blood recovered from the scene," said Cmdr Edward O'Donnell, Chicago Police.

Back then, the blood went to the Chicago police crime lab where it could be compared by blood type, but the whole business of DNA analysis had not yet arrived.

Several years ago, the department's cold case squad revisited the Levinson murder, submitted the blood evidence to the state crime lab and, earlier this year, got word they had a match.

The DNA from the blood on the window 17 years ago matched the DNA of 38-year-old Gonzalez, a career criminal. Gonzalez' fingerprints also matched those from the murder scene.

Gonzalez was brought to court Friday, now formally charged with the murder. And a group of detectives - some of them now retired - who spent thousands of hours on this case, are elated.

"A lot of times this doesn't work, but with a lot of police work, and now with the advent of DNA, which we didn't have back then, we're able to get results," said Det. Steve Schorsch, Chicago Police.

Gonzalez would have been 21 when, police say, he broke into the Levinson home. And while he was not on detectives' radar screen for the murder back then, he was often in police custody. In fact, since 1987, he's been locked up for all but a year and a half.

In its nine years of existence, police say the cold case squad has made more than 2,000 arrests - the majority of them the science of DNA and good police work.


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