Detailed description of store shooter released

February 5, 2008 11:48:25 AM PST
Mourners added Monday to the memorial outside of the south suburban store where five women were murdered over the weekend. A sixth victim survived the attack.

Police are apparently getting some assistance in their search. A woman who was injured during the shooting is helping police put together a composite sketch of the suspect. The Tinley Park mayor said the victim is under police guard and has spent several hours with police trying to give them a description of that suspect.

Police have released a describtion of suspect. They believe he is a black male, 5 feet 9 inches tall, 230 to 260 pounds and wearing a black waist-length jacket, a black cap, and dark jeans. At a press conference Monday, police gave a very detailed description of the suspect's hair.

"He had thick, black, braided hair, and he also had a receding hair line. The subject was well groomed and the witnesses provided the fact that he had one braid laying over the right side of his face at cheek level. The braid had four light green beads on the end of the braid and the braids on his head were pulled straight back underneath the cap he was wearing," said a police spokesperson.

As the manhunt continues, friends and family of the five victims are hoping the suspect will surrender.

"It's best if you turn yourself in. My sister will forgive you," said Maurice Hamilton, Rhoda McFarland's Brother.

Saturday morning, in what police are calling a botched robbery, a gunman shot and killed an employee of the Lane Bryant store in Tinley Park store and four shoppers -- Rhoda McFarland was a store manager, Carrie Chiuso from Frankfort, Sarah Szafranski from Oak Forest, Connie Woolfolk from Flossmoor and Jennifer Bishop from South Bend, Indiana.

Woolfolk was the mother of two, one a son with special needs. She was at the store buying an outfit for a rare girls night out.

Bishop was a nurse who was in the store because her husband was at a roofing convention nearby.

"Her three kids lost their mom. All little girls need their mom," said Sarah Paturalski, Bishop's co-worker.

McFarland was a minister about to get married. She was off on Saturday, but she came in to help out.

Szanfranski was a recent college graduate. A fund has been set up at Interstate Bank for a scholarship in her name.

Chuso was purchasing an outfit to wear on a date with her husband. She was a counselor at Homewood Flossmor High School. One of the other victims was the mother of a student at the same school. Grief counselors were made available Monday to the other students at the school.

A memorial has been set up in the snowy parking lot in front of the store. Monday morning, people stopped by to lay flowers. Some are friends of the victims, others are strangers who care.

"The innocent people and just everyone is so nice at the store. And that could have been me in there. I shop here all the time," said Lucy Galardi.

Emily Franz says she shops at the store frequently and enjoyed spending time with Rhoda McFarland.

"She would joke around. She was very helpful, very sweet. She was beautiful and very pretty and intelligent," said Emily Franz, friend of victim.

The mayor of Tinley Park says the community is doing everything possible to help the families of the victims.

"What we have done is we have assigned a patrol officer to each family to be with them as much as they want the parole officer to be with them, escort them out to Will County coroner's office, etc. and to act as a liaison between the individual families and our community," said Ed Zabrocki, mayor, Tinley Park.

Flags throughout Tinley Park are at half-staff for the next five days -- one day for each of the victims. The mayor says he made that decision for two reasons.

"This tragedy happened to five women and our community. Secondly, looking for something to do, some visible kind of thing to do to show our support," said Zabrocki.

A $55,000 reward is now being offered by the Lane Bryant Company and Cook County Crime Stoppers to find the suspect.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Tinley Park police at 708-444-5368 and Cook County Crimestoppers at 1-800-535-STOP.

The company that owns Lane Bryant is also in mourning for those who died Saturday. They closed their Chicago-area stores for the day and issued a statement saying: "We grieve for the innocent victims, and our primary concern is for the families and loved ones of those fatally injured." (To view a complete statement posted on the retailer's Web site, click here).