Kelli O'Laughlin murder: Suspect sent text message to mother

La Grange, IL

Hours after Indian Head Park police confirmed a person of interest is in custody for the murder of 14-year-old Kelli O'Laughlin, a line of grieving friends, family members and residents formed around Hallowell & James Funeral Home in Countryside.

Students dressed in all-black linked arms and huddled under umbrellas as they walked the rain-drenched streets to say their goodbyes to their former classmate. A crimson-colored SUV drove past the funeral home with the words “Never 4get” and “We R LT” scrawled on its windows in purple paint.

It was the second day of Kelli’s visitation.

She will be laid to rest Friday at Fairmont Willow Hills Memorial Park in Willow Springs following the funeral at 9:45 at St. John of the Cross Church, 5005 Wolf Road in Western Springs.

But before friends and family began to say their last goodbyes, police made an announcement that brought cautious optimisim to the community.

"We have a person of interest in custody," Police Chief Frank Alonzo said early Thursday afternoon. "We're working feverishly to try to bring this case to a close."

Alonzo would not confirm or deny if police used police dogs to find a trail leading to the Hinsdale Oasis, where early reports said a suspect had allegedly taken a cab from there to the vicinity of the murder.

The murder suspect or “person of interest,” a parolee between 30 and 35 years old, was questioned by an area police agency the night of the murder for an unrelated offense and was released, according to media reports. The man in custody also allegedly text messaged O'Laughlin's mother from Kelli's cellphone after he stabbed Kelli multiple times in the front and back, taunting her about what he did.

Alonzo would not comment on any information from unnamed sources in the case, other than to say that police had a person of interest in custody. He would not refer to the man as a “suspect.”

Police sources not directly involved in the case said Indian Head Park has between 48 and 72 hours to hold someone in custody before they must release the person, arrest him or her and charge them with a crime or get special permission to keep the person in custody. Thus, more news on the case likely will develop quickly.

Indian Head Park resident Brenda Garcia said the news that a suspect was in custody brought a sense of cautious relief, despite another suspect earlier being released from questioning — though police did say that other man was not a prime suspect and likely was in custody for information-gathering purposes.

"I feel so proud of the cops," Garcia said. "I hope it's the guy. I really didn't think they were going to solve this."

Garcia said she first heard the latest news on the case from her husband late Wednesday night.

"We kept saying, 'Oh my God, what if it was our little daughter?'" Garcia said.  "The way you feel like that, of course you want someone to be caught."

Sources in media reports said dogs were used to search for evidence along a creek that leads from near the O’Laughlin home to the Hinsdale Oasis, which is about a half-mile away from the crime scene.

The La Grange Suburban Life confirmed with an unnamed employee that video surveillance was taken from the 7-Eleven at the Hinsdale Oasis.

A car allegedly is being processed for evidence. Police would not say whether that vehicle was a cab or not.

La Grange Police Chief Michael Holub would not comment on the case but said he’d “imagine" police would have been monitoring Kelli’s Facebook page because of activity that occurred on her page after her death.

The La Grange Police Department has two members on the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force, Investigators Ken Uher and Patrick Fulla.

The DuPage County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report of a home invasion that occurred in unincorporated Willowbrook at 3:05 a.m. Wednesday, when a man broke into a home in the area of Hampshire Lane West and 91st Street.

The suspect entered the home, subdued the homeowner with pepper spray and stole valuables before fleeing, according to a news release.

The home invasion took place seven miles from where Kelli was murdered.

The Sheriff’s Office could not be reached about whether the incident was related to the Indian Head Park murder.

Check back with mysuburbanlife.com/lagrange as more information becomes available.