Charges due in beating death of NW Side man

September 15, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Police have a 34-year-old neighbor in custody.

Michael Justo, 56, of the 5300-block of N. Northwest Highway, was found beaten to death in the basement of his Gladstone Park home Tuesday night. According to police, earlier that day, his home had been burglarized. Police took a report at that time and left.

Justo told his wife that he suspected the burglar was a neighbor he knew. Later that night, Justo was found dead with massive trauma to the head, according to the medical examiner's office. His missing SUV was found about three blocks away from his home.

Justo worked for the city as a truck driver and lived in the neighborhood for about 20 years. According to a published report, a bat and a hammer may have been used in the attack. The suspect is being held on an arrest warrant from west suburban Oak Brook as detectives continue to investigate.

Neighbors say they always saw the victim in the neighborhood, and he was always one to say hello. They say Justo had three little dogs that he loved.

"It's just unbelievable that somebody in the neighborhood would do something like that. I don't remember ever seeing him," Steve Lebda, who knew Justo, said of the neighbor police are questioning. "I'd have to see a picture of him. People, I don't know what it is nowadays."

Stephanie Lassin lives next door to Justo. She said she and her family are stunned to hear charges are pending against the neighbor, whose name has not been released.

"I think that's the most scariest thing. It's your neighbor," she said.

The area hasn't seen a homicide since 2008.

"It can happen anywhere," Lassin said. "It doesn't matter where you live. I mean Jeff[erson] Park is a quiet neighborhood; you hardly hear stuff about it. It's scary, but it can happen anywhere."

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