A Mother's Torment: 10,000 days since her son said "I love you"

CHICAGO (WLS) -- David Chereck's last words to his mother were "I love you," 27 years ago.

Esther Chereck has carried those three words in her heart every day since January 1, 1992.

That was the day David, 15, was strangled after an evening with friends. Chereck's body was found in a Cook County forest preserve not far from the family's home in Skokie. Authorities identified the boy by his library card.

Today, 10,002 days since her agony began, Mrs. Chereck is sitting in a county courtroom in Skokie where her son's accused killer Robert Serritella is being prosecuted for first degree murder.

"I come every time" to court, Mrs. Chereck told the I-Team in an exclusive interview. "I sit directly in front of the judge to hear it, but not for me. I represent David. David is sitting in that courtroom."

On Tuesday she had to leave the courtroom several times, to avoid seeing gruesome crime scene photographs and hear vivid descriptions of her son's condition when he was found.

One investigator said the teenager had his own black scarf tied around his neck, "tightly double knotted in the back."

Serritella, 76, was a known sex offender who cruised the area around Linne Woods Forest Preserve in Morton Grove, authorities said. Serritella is charged with picking up the Skokie boy that night after he had met some friends to play video games.

Cook County Forest Preserve police were in charge of the investigation and executed a search warrant on Serritella's apartment. There was testimony on Tuesday that police found a hand-written list entitled "profiles for exploitation" that included these bullet points: 8-17 years old; bad home; no deep moral convictions.

But what seemed like a case headed toward an arrest, stalled.

Esther and Allan Chereck, the victim's parents, had given up hope of a solution.

"I felt like I was abandoned by the Forest Preserve police" Mrs. Chereck said. "They never returned my calls."

David's father Allan died in 2000, years before Serritella was arrested.

"He would still be very angry" his wife now recalls. "He would have a hard time sitting in court. He didn't think this day would have come."

As Esther Chereck takes in the parade of witnesses to and from the courtroom, something that Serritella told the ABC7 I-Team echoes in her memory.

"If you could just forgive whoever did it," Serritella told the Chereck's in a 1994 interview with the I-Team. It was a lengthy interview during which Serritella placed himself right in the middle of the murder case, offering numerous details of the crime, the scene and the victim.

And then, when asked if he wanted to say anything to the boy's parents he said: "If you could just forgive whoever did it..."

Outside the courtroom where he is being prosecuted for murder, on Tuesday Esther Chereck reflected on that advice from her son's alleged murderer.

"In talking to my rabbi and discussing it and how I felt what I realized is it's not forgiveness for me to give" she said. "In Judaism you have to ask for forgiveness from the person you wronged and David is not here to ask forgiveness...so, I don't feel obligated."

Asked what she does want to see happen this week in court, Mrs. Chereck is merciful in her words.

"All I want is justice. David deserves justice. That's what I'm, looking for," she said.

"What does justice look like to you?" investigative reporter Chuck Goudie asked.

"A guilty conviction and whatever sentence they give him," said Esther Chereck.
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