Body Found In Midlothian Car Identified
Homewood Fire Department divers, part of the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force, search a creek along Long Avenue in Oak Forest on Tuesday, looking for evidence in the case of Irma Rodriguez. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune)
The Cook County medical examiner's office this morning tentatively identified the body found in the car trunk as Irma Rodriguez, 44, of the 15400 block of Alameda Avenue, a mother of three who had been missing since Sunday evening. Family members earlier had said that the body was hers.
At a late morning news conference Tuesday, Oak Forest Acting Police Chief David DeMarco said police had executed a search warrant at the Rodriguez home, but said police had no suspects "right now" in the shooting death.
They said they had not been able to talk to her estranged husband, Norberto, a former Chicago police officer who was charged with trying to kill her in 1997 -- a charge he was acquitted of in a bench trial, court records show.
The body was found Monday night in the trunk of Irma Rodriguez's white Pontiac Grand Am on a quiet Midlothian street by a Riverdale police officer working with the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force, authorities said.
She had been shot several times in the back, and her death was ruled a homicide by the Cook County medical examiner's office.
Police divers crawled on hands and knees hunting for evidence in a creek near 155th Street and Long Avenue in Oak Forest, and crime-scene investigators and police dogs trawled for clues at the home neighbors said Rodriguez intermittently shared with her husband and her three children.
"We were concerned when her family said she was missing because she hadn't taken her purse with her and wasn't returning calls," DeMarco said.
Neither her cell phone nor a murder weapon had been recovered, he added.
The white Pontiac Grand Am with Illinois license plate number TITA 6 was found Monday before 8 p.m. on Kilpatrick Avenue just south of 147th Street, according to authorities and Theresa Danet, a Midlothian resident who sent the Tribune several photographs of the car.
Demarco said there was no identification on the body.
Shocked neighbors on the quiet suburban street described the family as friendly and outgoing. "She was a very nice lady," said Bill Richardson, who lived across the street and often talked with Rodriguez. "But when she had marital problems, she moved out with the kids."
Irma and Norberto Rodriguez were going through a divorce and were due in court Tuesday.
Rodriguez' lawyer, Carmen Quinones, said she had been informed that her client was missing before the Daley Center hearing this morning. The woman's husband also did not show up, she said.
The judge hearing the case postponed the case until next month at Quinones' request.
Norberto Rodriguez allegedly shot his wife in the hand after a domestic dispute at their then-home on the South Side in 1997, but Irma Rodriguez later claimed she'd been accidentally shot during a struggle.
He was charged with attempted murder, two counts of aggravated battery, and one count of armed violence, but was acquitted on all charges on July 2, 1998, after a bench trial in front of Cook County Circuit Court Judge Ralph Reyna, records show.
She'd been trying to prevent him from killing himself when the gun went off, she said during a Police Board hearing where he was fired after his acquittal.
(The Chicago Tribune contributed to this story)
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