ABC7 Exclusive: Man in custody in teen's murder
November 2, 2011 (COUNTRYSIDE, Ill.) (WLS) -- A man is in custody in connection with the stabbing death of Kelli O'Laughlin of Indian Head Park, ABC7 has learned.
The 14-year-old girl was stabbed a week ago Thursday when she apparently interrupted a burglary at her home. Since then, dozens of officers have investigated more than 100 leads. As friends and family gathered at a visitation for the Lyons Township freshman Wednesday, ABC7 learned one of those tips apparently panned out.
Officially, authorities at the Indian Head Park Police Department are quiet. One law enforcement source tells ABC7 that the man in custody is a state parolee. Another state police source says the person being questioned is a "Chicago gang-banger." ABC7 is told he hailed a cab after the crime last Thursday, possibly from the Hinsdale oasis on the Tri-State Tollway. Another police source says dogs were able to track the man's scent to that oasis along 294, not far from Indian Head Park.
Meanwhile, O'Laughlin's friends and family gathered to remember her Wednesday. Visitation was 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hallowell and James Funeral Home in Countryside. Another visitation is scheduled for Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m.
For the first time Wednesday O'Laughlin's father John released a statement on behalf of wife Brenda and their three children:
"We are truly overwhelmed and touched by the outpouring of support we have received from the community and all those who knew and loved Kelli. We are so grateful to everyone who has offered their support and condolences in this difficult time."
At the visitation Wednesday, a close friend of the O'Laughlin family remembered Kelli as a girl obsessed with tennis, who couldn't wait to play on the freshman sophomore team in high school, even if it meant play with a new set of braces.
"She had these big, bright sparkly eyes. She had a relatively new set of braces, which she wasn't very happy about, and she found solace in other high school kids who were going through same situation," said family friend Richard Roderick. "It's an awkward age, but she just lit up a room when she came in. She was just a very happy person."
On Wednesday, the O'Laughlin residence remained a crime scene. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and a few investigators checked out the backyard one more time before heading to the police station where South Suburban Crime Task Force members were meeting.
Dozens of police officers are devoted to the case, which gives comfort to residents of the southwest suburban town.
"I feel they are doing what they can with what they have to work with. There's no witnesses or nothing, unfortunately...I think they do a wonderful job," said resident Wayne Dubin.
Police are still operating under the theory that Kelli returned home from school and interrupted a burglary. Because Indian Head Park has had a rash of burglaries during the past few months, many have now changed the way they live.
"They did send out a little flyer saying, absolutely leave your lights on when you're not home, leave your TV on...put in bars, yes, deadbolts your doors," said resident Mollie Murphy.
In the meantime, the O'Laughlin's friend Richard Roderick is hopeful the case at some point will come to an end.
"We just hope and pray for a logical conclusion, and that at some point the family is able to find some peace," said Roderick.
The O'Laughlins also announced that they have established a scholarship fund in Kelli's name. It is being facilitated through the Chicago Community Foundation.
Kelli O'Laughlin's funeral is scheduled for Friday.
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