Juan Chavez

A family snapshot of Christine Caponigro shows an engaging young woman with a dimpled smile and long, hippy-ish bangs draped over her blue eyes.

But by May 2003, Caponigro had cut herself off from family and succumbed to drug addictions that drove her through the alleys of Chicago's Uptown neighborhood, Tribune interviews show.

In May 2003, she was found raped and strangled to death with a rope in an alley. Two transients, both with criminal records, had been drinking nearby, and one of them had brought her body to the attention of authorities.

Police were suspicious enough that they took a DNA swab of one of the men, Juan Chavez, and logged in his saliva as evidence. Chavez was released without being charged, and vanished.

When police tried to interview Chavez again, it was too late — he had traveled to Nebraska and then Sioux City, Iowa, where he was deported back to Mexico in December 2003, government records show.

About four years later, in August 2007, the state police Forensic Science Center determined that DNA recovered from Caponigro matched the swab from Chavez. But by then Chavez had been in Mexico for years.

Today authorities have no information on Chavez's whereabouts in Mexico, and he is not on Cook County's active list of fugitives being sought from Mexico.

Caponigro's brother William, a suburban police officer, said he is baffled by how law enforcement handled the case: "I don't know why it takes four years for a DNA result. I don't understand that. Is there an answer for that?"

 

David Jackson and Gary Marx, Tribune reporters

 

dyjackson@tribune.com, gmarx@tribune.com