Witnesses helped investigators compile a description of the suspect sought in the shooting deaths of five women at a suburban clothing store, according to officials who refused Wednesday to confirm news reports that a sixth victim had survived.
Tinley Park police have said a manager of the Lane Bryant store and four customers were herded into the back room and shot to death in a robbery attempt shortly after opening on Saturday.
The suspect was described as a black man with thick braided hair and a receding hairline, Sgt. T.J. Grady said Monday at a news conference. One braid was adorned with four light green beads and was hanging over the right side of his face at cheek level, he said.
But Grady declined to say how investigators got such a detailed description or whether it may have come from a sixth woman who was shot but survived the attack at the strip mall southwest of downtown Chicago. The Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, citing unnamed sources, reported that the unnamed survivor was treated at a hospital.
“I cannot, OK? The minute I’m able to confirm anything ... there’s so much misinformation going on right now, the minute we’re able to confirm anything, we will do that for you,” Grady said.
Tinley Park Police Chief Mike O’Connell has said that the investigation has been “extremely sensitive” and that “we need to keep ... information confidential.”
Federal authorities said Monday they are assisting the Tinley Park department’s search for the gunman.
“They have asked for our assistance, which we’re providing,” said Ross Rice, an FBI spokesman for the agency’s Chicago office. He declined to detail the agency’s involvement, including whether it was assisting the investigation, the manhunt or both.
The dead have been identified as Connie R. Woolfolk, 37, of Flossmoor; Sarah T. Szafranski, 22, of Oak Forest; Carrie H. Chiuso, 33, of Frankfort; Rhoda McFarland, 42, of Joliet; and Jennifer L. Bishop, 34, of South Bend, Ind.
A $55,000 reward — most of which is being paid for by Lane Bryant’s parent company, Charming Shoppes Inc. — was being offered for information leading to the suspect’s arrest.
Charming Shoppes spokeswoman Gayle Coolick said Monday she wasn’t immediately sure how many employees were working during the robbery or how much cash was in the store at the time.
“But certainly it was early in the day so one would assume that cash levels were pretty low,” she said.