One year ago tomorrow, Mary Mapes’ happy life in South Oak Park as a wife and new mother was suddenly and irreparably shattered by one mindlessly brutal act. On an otherwise normal early summer day, Mape’s husband, UIC religion professor Peter D’Agostino, was killed by a sledgehammer-wielding assailant as he walked home from the Lombard Avenue Blue Line station around 5:30 p.m. June 22.
While Oak Park police have followed up on literally hundreds of tips since that day, they have been unable to locate a person of interest that they now characterize as a suspect. The department has also contacted law enforcement agencies around the country with the assistance of the FBI, seeking news of similar incidents. Nothing, however, has panned out.
Mapes no longer lives in the family’s home on Cuyler, having sold the house last fall and moved in with relatives in another state.
“It’s impossible to stay in Oak Park,” she said Thursday on the occasion of her return to the village. The purpose of her trip was to announce a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of her husband’s killer. Besides hoping the money acts as an incentive for someone to come forward with information, Mapes and other family members expressed a fervent desire that the case not fade from public memory.
Flanked by family members and accompanied by top police brass from the Oak Park Police Department, Mapes addressed a large assemblage of print and electronic media. For several hours, collectively and individually, she and her family endured the process of making their pain and hope public before the press with the intent of bringing her husband’s murder back to the forefront of public consciousness.
“We are offering a cash reward of $25,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator of this horrible crime,” Mapes read from a prepared statement.
Red-eyed and shaking frequently, Mapes set aside her statement and talked about her husband and what his death has done to her and her family.
“He was a kind and gentle man,” she said of her husband. “And he deserves justice.”
Her life, she said, will never be the same.
“It has been absolutely shattered. The foundation has been ripped out,” she said, adding that she faces a “daily struggle” to get through the pain.
Chief of Police Rick Tanksley said his department needs assistance with the investigation.
“It’s been one year. We need help,” he said. “Someone knows something.” Tanksley said the “person of interest” pictured on police flyers is no longer that, but rather, a suspect. That suspect, Tanksley said, was seen with a “construction type” sledgehammer by several individuals around the time of the killing. They also identified a distinctive automobile that had undergone body work.
One witness told police at the time that he heard a car door open and then heard somebody scream, “No!” and then “Son of a bitch!” He then heard a door close and a car squealing off.
At least three other people eventually reported seeing an individual matching the description of the “person of interest” in the D’Agostino case shortly before the June 22 killing. However, none of them thought to call police.
In one case, a man walking home across the Home Avenue pedestrian bridge noticed a man following him quickly, picking up speed. Though the man ended up running home the last block, he did not bother to call police. 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.
Mary Mapes said she wants closure for more than just herself. Noting that her two-year-old daughter must grow up without her father, Mapes said she wanted her to grow up understanding that there is not just “pure evil” in the world.
“She needs to know that it was one person who was brought to justice,” she said of her husband’s killer.
Asked if the family was planning to do anything to mark the first anniversary of Peter D’Agostino’s death, Mapes replied, “It will just be a private [thing]. Nothing is planned.”
Mape’s sister-in-law, Susan D’Agostino, tearfully said the wounds opened last June 22 have not begun to heal.
“I am unbelievably sad. I can’t kiss him one more time and tell him I love him,” she said of her brother. Along with the grief, she added, is anger.
“I’m still as angry as I was a year ago when I was here,” she said. “This person is a monster. He needs to not be walking around.”
Saying they had no comment regarding the hiring of a private firm to conduct a parallel investigation of the killing, family members emphasized several times that they are completely satisfied with both the initial and ongoing efforts of the Oak Park Police Department investigation into D’Agostino’s murder.
John Galarnyk, an attorney hired by the family to represent their interests, stressed that the police were conducting “an ongoing investigation,” and reiterated that the family had faith in their efforts.
“Hopefully a month from now the chief will be announcing the solving of the crime,” he said.
Tanksley said he’d like nothing more.
“You saw the family. A year after the fact, they’re still broken,” he said afterward. “And they’re going to remain like that until we make an arrest.”
Tanksley added that he had no problem with the family retaining the services of an investigator, and his department would continue to support them in every way it could.
“Keeping in mind that this is still a police investigation, whatever the family wants to do, be it offer a reward or hiring a private investigator, that’s OK with me. We’re working toward a similar goal, which is to find the person who killed Peter D’Agostino.”
Anyone with information can contact Oak Park Police Department investigators directly at 358-5403.