• Megann Horstead

Tinley Park prayer service pays tribute to lives lost in Lane Bryant tragedy

When tragedy strikes, often it is not only the victims’ loved ones that mourn the loss, so does the community.

On Feb. 2, dozens joined together to pray in the wake of the Lane Bryant tragedy that killed five women and left one wounded in 2008.

One Tinley Park church set out to host the special program marking the 10th anniversary of the massacre that made headlines locally, nationally and internationally.

While the motive behind the tragedy is still a mystery a decade later, the lives of Connie R. Woolfock, of Flossmoor; Sarah T. Szafranski, of Oak Forest; Carrie Hudek Chiuso, of Frankfort; Jennifer Bishop, of South Bend, Indiana; and Rhoda McFarland, of Joliet, were remembered with a prayer service held in their memory at St. Stephen Deacon and Martyr Church in Tinley Park.

The identity of the sixth woman has not been released, to date.

Tinley Park Mayor Jacob Vandenburg opened up the service and said on this day, in 2008, a remarkable group of women left this world too soon, but did not leave without a fight.

In recent days, a description of the suspect in question has since been circulated, as well as the release of a 9-1-1 audio recording captured in the midst of the chaos.

“We are, here, today to recognize and remember,” Vandenburg said.

Vandenburg proceeded by reciting the names of those killed in the tragedy and said these women still live in our hearts and in our memories.

“This event forever changed Tinley Park,” he said. “In response to this, our community has banded together and continues to support those affected by this tragedy. The support is evident by the more than 7,000 tips the Tinley Park Police Department has received, to date. Even 10 years later, more tips continue to come in.”

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow took a moment to share some remarks and stressed that this case is on the front burner.

History shows that a number of cases have been solved after lengthier periods of time.

“I just want to make sure the public understands that this is not something that’s just sitting on somebody’s desk,” he said. “It’s being actively worked continuously.”

Glasgow prides himself on advocating against violence against women throughout his six-term career as state’s attorney.

“There’s so many cases where individuals have preyed upon women,” he said. “In the most gruesome ways, this case stands out.”

Over the years, the Tinley Park Police Department has received a number of false tips.

Glasgow gave credit to the Tinley Park Police Department for their work on this case and said the two lead detectives have demonstrated great knowledge, a sense of urgency and confidence in knowing what actions to take.

“I want to stress that my office is committed to working with them, no matter what the cost, the resources, or the man-power,” he said. “My office will do whatever’s necessary.”

Glasgow said they don’t like to use the word “cold case” in Will County.

“I think if you look at the Will County State’s Attorneys Office, I think we have a reputation that we don’t shy away from the tough cases,” Glasgow said. “This is a tough case. We know in our hearts that we’re going to solve it, and that’s the only way [in] law enforcement you succeed. You have to believe.”

Police Chief Steve Neubauer said he wishes he could tell everyone who did this and why.

“I don’t know,” he said, referring to the suspect and what’s been done. “I will say this, the men and women of this organization have not forgotten the case or the victims.”

A number of law enforcement officials across several jurisdictions have worked for 10 years in hopes of reaching a resolution.

“As much Jenny [Bishop] would want the person responsible to be found and brought to justice, she would want the day to be remembered even more by being the beginning of the process of love conquering evil, and that is where my spirit is,” said Michelle Talos, a sibling to one of the five women killed in the tragedy and a resident of South Bend, Indiana.

Talos, joined by McFarland’s brother, Maurice Hamilton, were on hand to represent lives lost in the tragedy.

Talos said her current state of being first started after having seen the five crosses planted in front of the store.

“It’s spread with the many sympathy cards I received sending prayers and having masses set for Jenny,” she said. “It spread through the packed church during her funeral and memorial services.”

The prayer service continued after their remarks with an opening song, prayer and messages shared by St. Stephen Deacon and Martyr Church Deacon Ken Zawadzki and Fr. Jay Finno.

In capping off the program, Talos’ message continues to ring true for anyone who has lost loved ones to violence.

“God’s love is still spreading,” Talos said.


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