http://www.desplainesvalleynews.com/murder-investigation-of-justice-woman-continues121.phpMurder investigation of Justice woman continues
By James Pluta
Desplaines Valley News
The 20-year-old Justice woman found stabbed and strangled to death inside
her Hickory Trace apartment unit Dec. 7 had just left her 2-year-old son
at his grandmother’s house — fearing for his personal safety — hours
before she was brutally murdered and left for dead, according to a source
close to the family.
The victim, Lacey Claire Gaines, whom relatives and friends said was
dating a new boyfriend of late, also was involved in a court custody
battle with the father of the boy, who revealed in the Cook County Circuit
Court filing that he had sex with her when she was 16 and he was in his
The last known hearing in the “petition to establish parentage” filed
pro-se by the boy’s father on March 18, 2009 (Case # 2009D679047), was
back in May, according to court records viewed by the Desplaines Valley
Police Chief Robert Gedville said no charges have been filed yet, even
though detectives working the case have “interviewed every known boyfriend
she’s associated with” over the years — including “a few” possible
suspects who were in custody early last week and have since been released.
“We have interviewed everyone we can and our (Southwest Major Crimes) Task
Force has 30 to 40 detectives working around the clock to get this
solved,” Gedville said, adding they are looking into every lead and are
hoping someone calls Cook County Crimestoppers with information that leads
to the apprehension of the assailant.
Tipsters, who don’t have to identify themselves, are urged to call (800)
535-STOP and if their leads result in an arrest they could earn a $1,000
The crime — which continues to remain the subject of much chatter and
speculation on a number of news and crime victim’s web sites — has been
described by investigators as an “isolated incident,” meaning neighbors of
the victim should not be concerned a killer is on the loose.
Gedville said there was no forced entry to the apartment and no evidence
anything was stolen, suggesting the possibility Gaines may have known her
attacker. He also said there is no known motive at this point, but that
“every avenue is being explored” with hopes of hunting down the killer.
When police arrived at the apartment — responding to a 911 call made by an
English-speaking “acquaintance” of her current boyfriend who arrived home
to find her dead inside — they found Gaines unresponsive and covered in
blood and rushed her to Advocate Christ Memorial Hospital in Oak Lawn.
Once there, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said she was
pronounced dead on arrival at 7:19 p.m.
Both the current boyfriend and the father of the child were questioned in
connection with the case, as were others.
While an embalmer with the Kepouros Funeral Services stated the fully
clothed victim died of a single knife wound to the neck and was likely
choked as well with an electrical cord, a medical examiner’s “first
responder report” shared with family members indicated there was a cord or
rope around her neck, a 4-inch deep gash to the left side of her neck and
a surface stab wound in her left shoulder.
However, there was no apparent sexual assault and no signs of a struggle,
perhaps because Gaines was caught off guard or was sleeping at the time.
Gedville confirmed a kitchen knife with a 10-inch blade recovered from the
residence was “very likely” the murder weapon and was one of many things
taken into evidence. However, no suspect vehicles were impounded.
Someone close to Gaines who requested anonymity stated through domestic
violence victim’s advocate Susan Murphy-Milano of Chicago that Gaines had
sought help in March for alleged abuse, stalking and death threats, had
tried to get a court order of protection served on the child’s father to
no avail, yet seemed to be trying to get her life back together.
Gaines, a single mother, worked three jobs — including as a
waitress/hostess for the past two years at Kingsberry Waffle House in
Flossmoor, which she quit earlier this year. She earned money to raise her
son, pay off a car loan and a mortgage for a house her parents bought in
Steger that she and her son shared briefly with the child’s father.
Jimmy Mantas, her manager at the waffle restaurant, called her untimely
death a “tragedy” and “traumatic” for those that knew and loved her.
“It shocked everybody, but we have high turnover here so some of the girls
here now didn’t know her while some did,” he said. “We hope everything
Gaines graduated from south suburban Grant Park High School in 2008, which
she attended for her senior year after transferring from Illinois Trinity
Lutheran Day & High School in Crete, where she spent her entire grade
school period and her first three years of high school.
While in high school, she worked for two years as a waitress at a
relative’s fancy establishment, Vic’s on Main, in Crete from 2005 to 2007
and overlapped that job with a waitress/hostess/salad and dessert cook
position at Maxwell’s in Beecher from 2006 to 2008.
In a resume she typed up looking for a new job this summer, Gaines called
herself “very outgoing” and one who enjoys speaking to all kinds of
“After my years of experience in restaurants, I feel very comfortable
talking to people and helping them in any way,” she stated. “I also have a
good knowledge of computers and am very familiar with working registers. I
can also speak Spanish fluently.”
A beautiful young lady who was religious but not a regular churchgoer, she
also spoke some French, learned in part from her early teenage years as an
exchange student in France.
However, life took some sharp turns for her after she got pregnant at 16
and beyond, and e-mails obtained by the newspaper indicated she was
reaching out to domestic violence advocates for assistance.
E-mails and cell phone text message records also obtained by the newspaper
between Gaines and the boy’s father and others she confided in claimed an
alleged pattern of abuse and violence, some which is known to have been
documented to police in Crete, Steger and Chicago’s Southwest Side — where
Gaines’ current boyfriend lived with his sisters
Neither the boy’s father or the new boyfriend could be reached for comment
for this story.
Family members said the new boyfriend attended the wake, but others in
attendance indicated the boy’s father allegedly came just to pick up his
son before being kicked out by an uncle of the victim.