Friends mourn teen stabbed to death in SW suburbs

October 29, 2011 1:26:07 PM PDT
Hundreds of mourners gathered outside a suburban school Friday night to honor a 14-year-old student killed after she apparently interrupted a home burglary.

Kelli O'Laughlin was stabbed to death and police are searching for her killer. She was attacked at her home in the 6300-block of Keokuk Road in west suburban Indian Head Park when she got home from school Thursday.

Police have released a sketch of a man seen walking near the area after the murder. They want to question him. Investigators were circulating copies of the sketch Friday night to drivers in the area. They also released pictures of gold coins that the killer stole from the house.

"Maybe somebody tried to pawn these at a pawn shop or tried to turn them in for cash. That's the only new lead at this point," said Indian Head Park Police Chief Frank Alonzo.

The stabbing happened between 4:45 and 5:30 p.m. Thursday. O'Laughlin's mother reportedly found her body when she came home. She was rushed to a nearby hospital but later pronounced dead.

According to the medical examiner, the killer stabbed O'Laughlin numerous times.

The police chief refused to comment on reports that police were questioning a suspect in the station Friday night. However, they continue to work on the case, with 40 to 50 officers from the south suburban Major Crimes Task Force working the investigation.

Pain and grief were palpable at the candlelight vigil Friday night. Classmates, friends and community members crowded the space in front of the freshman-sophomore campus at Lyons Township High School to remember O'Laughlin, who had been a freshman there.

"She was a really great friend and she was always smiling," said Celeste Muniz, a friend of O'Laughlin.

"She was a really great girl, and we're really heartbroken by this," said Madison Miller, another of O'Laughlin's friends.

Many at the vigil were angry that she was apparently killed when she arrived home during a burglary.

"I'm angry that he would hurt her. She was only 14. What was she going to do? Honestly? Why couldn't he have just ran? Why couldn't he have just left instead of killing her?" said Emma Baron at the vigil.

Friends have tied white ribbons around trees and poles throughout the community.

"So shocking, you don't expect anyone that young to be taken from you in such a horrible way," said Valerie Cottrill, who taught O'Laughlin in day care for years.

Police say that an anonymous donor has come forward offering a $10,000 reward for a conviction in this case. They're hoping that will prompt more witnesses to come forward.

The police chief says this is the first murder in Indian Head Park that he can recall.


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