DIXMOOR, Ill. (WLS) -- For the very first time, the mother of a 14-year-old girl murdered in suburban Dixmoor in 1991 is speaking about the case. Investigators have reopened the investigation into Cateresa Matthews' death. In 2011, five people convicted of murder were exonerated.
A parent loses a child to a violent crime, a year passes before there are arrests. Five young men go to prison only to be released years later because they didn't do it. This is a case with plenty of agony to go around. But for a mother who's endured years of pain, there is now a bit of hope for justice.
"She called me that day and told me she was on her way home, but she never made it. I knew something was wrong when she wasn't on the bus," said Theresa Matthews, victim's mother.
Theresa Matthews lost her only child 23 years ago. Cateresa was 14 when she was raped and murdered, her body discarded in a wooded area alongside I-57 in Dixmoor. Though DNA at the time pointed to a paroled sex offender, police instead built a case against five young men who were later sent to prison, but their confessions were cooerced. The "Dixmoor Five," all in their 30s, have since been freed and are suing for wrongful conviction. Now investigators have refocused on leads they had two decades ago.
"It's bringing up old wounds again which through the grace of God I'm gonna go through every step I have to go through to get closure for my baby," said Matthews.
Twenty-three years of birthdays and Mother's Days, emptiness and anger and no resolution. Theresa Matthews nonetheless says she is optimistic that the roller coaster she's been on may be coming to an end.
"We're not rushing. This is not gonna be 48 hours. We're gonna get the right person for the right thing this time," said Chief Ron Burge, Dixmoor Police Department.
Dixmoor's new chief has asked for the sheriff's help, and he's assigned his top detectives to work a case that has a DNA link to a man who's spent much of his adult life in and out of prison. They won't comment on his current whereabouts, and stress there's work to be done.
"There's gonna be a lot of work that we need to do, but we feel pretty confident going ahead we're going to have some type of resolution," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
"Eventually they will find out who did this. I just have to wait and be still and patient," said Matthews.
Because this case has such a tortured past, investigators don't want to say too much about the evidence they have or the suspect they're looking at.
The civil suit filed by members of the "Dixmoor Five" claims that the man who killed Cateresa Matthews 23 years ago did prison time for rape and was paroled shortly before the murder occurred. He was later returned to prison for an unrelated conviction, and has since been released.
Cataresa Matthews' mother speaks after 'Dixmoor 5' murder case reopened