Hit-and-run victim's family pleads for help

February 11, 2010 1:07:25 PM PST
The family of a young woman killed earlier this month is asking for help in finding the driver who struck her and then drove away. Twenty-five-year old Rachel Gilliam was killed as she was on her way home from the restaurant where she worked in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood. Gilliam was killed in the early morning after Halloween.

Relatives hope surveillance video and witnesses can help bring the driver to justice.

Gilliam grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. She came to Chicago seven years ago to attend DePaul University. After graduation, Gilliam decided to make Chicago her home. It has been 11 days since Gilliam was killed by a hit-and-run driver. The 25-year-olds' family believes time is crucial in finding the driver.

For the past two years, Rachel Gilliam has been a fixture at Bowman's Bar and Grill. The 25-year-old DePaul University graduate was a very popular bartender at the Lincoln Avenue neighborhood bar, the type who knew the customers' names.

"She had a very infectious personality, was quite witty, sarcastic and had a little bit of a cynic to her," said Janine O'Shea, Rachel Gilliam's mother.

On Halloween night, Gilliam closed the bar shortly after 3:30 in the morning. She headed south on Lincoln to hail a cab. At the corner of Lincoln and Cullom, she was struck by a silver four-door car.

The driver never stopped.

"This isn't the way she should go at age 25. For someone to up and leave her in the street like that, it makes me very angry," said Johnnie Zela, Bowman's owner.

For Gilliam's boss and co-workers at Bowman's, their anger has turned into action. They are determined to find the driver who killed Gilliam. They have hired a private detective, raised money for a reward fund, passed out hundreds of fliers and are searching for more surveillance tape from nearby businesses and residents.

Bowman's own camera inside the bar captured what is believed to be the car that hit Gilliam.

"It's unlikely that the person did not know that they hit Rachel, and it's likely the car would have suffered considerable damage," said Susan Carlson, private detective.

"We are pleading for the driver to come forward and see some kind of justice," said Ron McMickle, Rachel Gilliam's father.

Gilliam's parents say the determination by their daughter's friends and co-workers to find the driver is exactly what she would have done for someone else.

"She was such a generous, loyal friend. That's what we've heard over and over from all her friends, and we saw that too as her family members. She'd do anything for you," said O'Shea.

Based on surveillance tape collected so far, it's believed the silver car that struck Gilliam may have turned down a residential street.

The family is asking for any residents with surveillance cameras to come forward.

Bowman's bar is collecting donations to add to a $10,000 reward.

As for her future, Rachel Gilliam had plans to enroll in a MBA program.