Police are hoping a significant increase in the cash reward will help crack the investigation into two Rogers Park murders that rocked the neighborhood five weeks ago.
Community leaders are now offering $150,000 – the largest privately-offered reward in Chicago history – for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer.
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said he hopes the money will be enough to get someone who knows the killer to come forward.
“We’re hopeful that this significant reward increase will encourage individuals with direct knowledge of and interaction with the suspect to come forward,” Johnson said at a press conference Thursday at Loyola Park. “Someone out there listening or watching right now knows who this person is, whether it be an acquaintance, friend, loved one or relative.”
Douglas Watts, 73, was killed at about 10 a.m. Sept. 30, while he was walking his dog near his home in the 1400 block of West Sherwin. Eliyahou Moscowitz, 24, was killed in the same manner – by a masked gunman shooting at point blank range – 36 hours later.
When ballistics tests showed that both victims were killed with a bullet from the same gun, and that the victims had not connection to each other, the case quickly became something more than a typical homicide investigation.
A community meeting on the case drew hundreds of residents, with many saying they were afraid to walk alone in the neighborhood. Johnson Tuesday said residents should still use caution, urging people to walk their dogs in groups.
Initially police deployed 40 detectives to the case. Johnson acknowledged that that number has dropped. But he said the department continues to have “significant resources” on the case.
Police have released photographs of the person they believe carried out the murders, taken from surveillance video. Although his face is covered, police have point out that he has a distinctive gait, with his feet pointed out.
Johnson said the $150,000 reward, increased from $23,000, is historic.
“This increase marks the highest reward raised exclusively by the community for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a homicide suspect within the city of Chicago,” Johnson said.
Levi Staal, a West Rogers Park community leader, said the money came from several sources, including the Rogers Park Builders Group, the Jewish Federation of Metro Chicago, community activist Raul Montes Jr., Crime Stoppers of Cook County, and an anonymous donor.
“This is the largest reward offered in the city’s history,” Staal said. “It stands as a great example of how we can work together as a community.”
Johnson praised community help, which he said has produced more than 430 leads in the case. He said more help is needed.
“Somebody out there knows who this guy is. They do,” Johnson said. “Either he bragged to someone. Someone saw that video and recognized him. We just need those individuals out there to come forward and help us.”
Johnson was asked if he feared that the only we the killer will be caught is if he strikes again.
“That’s always a concern. I hope it doesn’t rise to that level. But we have leads that we’re still looking at. But we need additional help from the public,” he said.