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Man charged in 2009 rape, murder of 12-year-old girl

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Updated: June 10, 2014 6:29AM

A man described as a “transient” has been charged with the 2009 sexual assault and killing of a 12-year-old South Side girl.

Rene Valentin-Matos, 47, is not only charged with criminal sexual assault and murder in the 2009 killing of Jahmeshia Conner, whose body was found in an Englewood alley, but also the 2011 sexual assault of a woman in Pilsen.

The Illinois State Police crime lab notified police in January that DNA evidence from the 2009 slaying as well as the 2011 sexual assault in Chicago pointed to the same man. But authorities didn’t have a name.

Investigators re-interviewed the sexual assault victim and she was able to provide details that led them to Valentin-Matos, authorities said.

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced the charges Wednesday afternoon at a news conference.

“After nearly four and a half years, I am pleased to announce that a team of our cold-case detectives has charged Mr. Rene Valentin-Matos with the 2009 sexual assault and murder of 12-year-old Jahmeshia Conner. It was a disgusting story of an innocent young lady who was abducted, raped and ultimately murdered,” McCarthy said of the young girl. “Because [detectives] left no stone unturned, a murderer and rapist is off the street and the family will have some measure of closure.”

Valentin-Matos told police he knew the girl, having worked at a church that Jahmeshia and her family attended, authorities said.

“He was kind of a transient, moved around. He lived where there was work, a church for a while near the victim’s home,” said Chicago Police Lt. Ozzie Valdez, who worked on the case.

Authorities found Valentin-Matos in Minnesota, working for an agricultural company. Authorities interviewed him and were able to get a DNA sample, which linked him to both crimes, Valdez said.

He was arrested by Chicago Police in Minnesota on Tuesday and is being extradited to Chicago where he will be tried. He’s scheduled to appear in bond court on Thursday.

Jahmeshia was reported missing on Nov. 15, 2009 after she failed to return home after visiting an aunt.

Police found her badly beaten body two weeks later behind a garage in the 6400 block of South Marshfield. An autopsy revealed she had been strangled. Family members at the time described the young girl as an outgoing church choir member who loved to double dutch jump rope. Just prior to her death, she made Luke O’Toole Elementary School’s cheerleading squad.

Jahmeshia’s death sparked controversy over how police treat missing-children’s cases. A national missing-children’s center had said police placed Jahmeshia in a category on an FBI database reserved for runaways. Police said that was not their intent, but also admitted they never sent the media a missing-persons bulletin on Jahmeshia.

In the wake of her death, police began sending out more frequent notices about missing children so they will not be dismissed as “runaways,” as Jahmeshia apparently was.


Twitter: @tinasfon

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