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At least 51 women in Chicago have been murdered, strangled and stuffed in garbage cans or left in alleyways since 2001. Despite the similarities among the deaths, the cases remained unsolved.
After years of pressure from activists, the Chicago Police Department is finally investigating the deaths, primarily of sex workers, as the work of a potential serial killer, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday. The Murder Accountability Project, a nonprofit group that analyzes homicides, has already said the killings fit the bill.
“I believe there are probably more than one serial killer active in Chicago,” Thomas Hargrove, founder of the Murder Accountability Project, previously told VICE News.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Thursday night at a board meeting that his department has launched a review into the murders, although he doesn’t believe there’s enough evidence to suggest it’s a serial killer at work, according to the Sun-Times. A spokesperson for the police department told the Sun-Times that they’ve been in touch with the Murder Accountability Project, and they’re doing an inventory of all forensic evidence connected to the 51 murders.
At least seven of the women were found in garbage receptacles; two were killed within days of each other in November 2007 and found dead in burning trash cans in the same park. Many were found on the south and west sides of Chicago, and almost all were black. Some of the women were raped and beaten, according to the Chicago Tribune.
At least 75 Chicago women have been killed in a similar fashion — strangled or smothered and left to die in public — since 2001, according to an analysis done by the Tribune. Of those murders, 25 cases were closed, resulting in the arrests of 13 men. In some instances, police never interviewed people in the neighborhoods near the killings or friends of the victims.
“They just picked the body up and left,” an unnamed man told the Tribune when asked about the murder of Velma Howard, a woman found dead on his block in 2014. She was swaddled in a tan blanket beneath a pile of snow, and an electrical cord was wrapped around her neck. “We [are] just looked over.”
Cover image: Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speaks during a news conference. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford, File)