As the investigation into the brutal June 22 murder of Oak Park resident Peter D'Agostino moved into its third week, calls continued for public awareness of the individual and car being sought by police.
Speakers at both a Thursday night community meeting and a Friday press conference expressed concern that the case might begin fading from public conciousness. Saturday afternoon, Peter D'Agostino's widow, Mary Mapes, added her voice to that chorus, urging the public not to allow the search for her husband's killer to lose its momentum.
"Community support is critical," Mapes said during a 40-minute interview with Wednesday Journal reporters Saturday. Acknowledging that police have been doing all they can, Mapes said what is needed now is for someone with critical information to come forward.
That "person of interest" sought by police is described in an informational flyer as a 25- to 35-year-old African-American with a slight to medium build, between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet 2 inches in height. He was seen entering a turquoise or light blue, mid-size, older passenger vehicle with a dark-colored front passenger side fender.
"If people feel any connection to other people, they should contact [Cook County] Crime Stoppers. Call the police. They know they can solve it if people come forward," Mapes said.
Speaking at a Friday morning press conference called by Cook County Crime Stoppers on the 1150 block of South Harvey Avenue, Mary Mapes' sister, Kathy, implored anyone with any information to contact authorities.
"We need your help in finding the person responsible for destroying a loving family," she told the media.
The street press conference was called to make another appeal for the public's assistance in that investigation. Crime Stoppers' chairman, George McDade, announced his group was offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for D'Agostino's murder. Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800/535-STOP.
Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley underscored Mapes' point, saying, "We need to continue to get this face and this vehicle in front of the Chicago area."
McDade pleaded with "anyone who sees this message" to "pick up a phone. Get involved."
Tanksley said Monday that the Crime Stoppers news conference had an impact, saying, "There was an immediate response. It did cause our phones to start ringing." As of Tuesday, police have received some 175 calls from the public, police said.
Tanksley said he has assigned every available officer to the case, and that as of last Friday the department has expended an additional 342 hours in overtime on the case.
However, he stressed that any successful conclusion to the D'Agostino case will most likely involve information from the public, and urged the print and electronic media to assist with police efforts to blanket the Chicagoland area.
A Thursday evening meeting organized by the South East Oak Park Community Organization (SEOPCO) showed clear evidence that the village is not ready to forget the events of June 22 anytime soon.
Accompanied by Village President David Pope and four village trustees as well as Village Manager Carl Swenson, Tanksley and his three top deputies spent two hours Thursday night answering questions regarding the D'Agostino murder investigation from an overflow audience of some 150 people at the Oak Park Conservatory.
Tanksley began with a brief overview of the facts relating to the first several days of the investigation. He told the crowd that police believe D'Agostino was attacked where he was found in the 1100 block of South Harvey, that he most likely wasn't robbed, though they couldn't be certain, and that they still had no motive for the crime. He would not comment on the type of weapon used.
Tanksley said that police have determined that at least four people had reported seeing an individual matching the description of the "person of interest" in the D'Agostino case shortly before the June 22 killing.
None of them, he noted, called police at the time, including a man who reportedly was so concerned about being followed across the Home Avenue pedestrian bridge the afternoon of June 22 that he ran home the last block and a half.
A little later, a woman out watering her lawn on South Harvey noticed a suspicious man exit a vehicle and walk south on Harvey. She went out to take down the vehicle's license plate, but retreated when the man suddenly returned to his car.
A third man, also watering his grass, had occasion to speak briefly with that same individual after he walked up behind him, Tanksley said. Another man had been followed into Berwyn after getting off the Blue Line.