Mother of Dixmoor victim hopes new probe brings answers
BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA Staff Reporter May 12, 2014 8:20PM
Theresa Matthews, mother of 14-year-old Cateresa Matthews, who was killed in 1991, talked Monday about the reopening of the case. With her are Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart (left) and Dixmoor Police Chief Ron Burge. | Al Podgorski/Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 14, 2014 6:34AM
That immense feeling of loss never goes away. It encroaches, particularly, on Mother’s Day and on Nov. 19, the date her daughter disappeared, said Theresa Matthews of Chicago.
Matthews, 53, was speaking Monday of the unsolved rape and murder of her daughter, Cateresa Matthews, 14, of Dixmoor. Her 1991 murder was blamed on the so-called “Dixmoor 5,” teenagers at the time, but they recently were exonerated by DNA evidence.
“I thought we had closure when the Dixmoor 5 were convicted, but come to find out they weren’t the ones, and I had to relive those feelings all over again,” Matthews said. “That was hell. It really was. It was like re-opening old wounds all over again.”
She was visiting the Dixmoor police station, where authorities have re-opened the high-profile case with help from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. The ‘Dixmoor 5’ served anywhere from 10 to 19 years in prison, before DNA evidence exonerated them. The last was released from prison in 2011.
The mother and authorities spoke at a press conference about the newest efforts in the case.
“I’m very grateful and thankful to God that they’re re-opening the case. I do get those feelings of getting back on a roller coaster. But wherever God leads me, I’m there, because that was my baby, my only child, and she will always be my baby.”
Cateresa disappeared after leaving her grandmother’s Dixmoor home on Nov. 19, 1991, heading home. She never made it. Her body was found three weeks later in a field near I-57, dead from a single gunshot to the mouth.
Unsolved for nearly a year, the case made headlines when authorities arrested the five teens, ages 14 to 16, in the fall of 1992. Prosecutors at the time said three of the teens confessed, implicating the others. But still-pending federal lawsuits filed in 2012 by the five claimed officers coerced confessions even though the suburb and Illinois State Police knew DNA evidence excluded them.
Three of the teens were later granted certificates of innocence by the state.
“This case has affected three generations of a town probably less than two square miles. We’re talking about our parents. We’re talking about us. And we’re talking about our kids,” said Dixmoor Police Chief Ron Burge, a childhood friend of Matthews who also knew Cateresa well.
“I’ve been directed by the mayor to make sure we give this case top priority,” said Burge. “We’re confident we’re going to get this case resolved and bring some closure.”
The Dixmoor 5 lawsuit also alleged authorities linked the DNA to a sex offender who had been released on parole shortly before the murder. But that person, who has been in and out of prison for other offenses, has never been charged in Matthews’ death.
Dart declined Monday to discuss that person or any other specifics of the new investigation.
“We are going through all the leads we have. Loads of leads are out there. Some are older leads. Some are newer ones. We’re going to be incredibly thorough in everything, and very, very methodical,” Dart said. “We don’t anticipate this is going to have resolution today or tomorrow. But we also don’t believe it’s going to be years from now.”
Matthews is prepared to seek justice for Cateresa.
“I know it means re-living it all over again. I’m able and I’m willing,” she said.
“God is working. It’s his time, not ours, and it took me a long time to realize that. I was just existing for 20 years. I didn’t care about nothing, and then when this all came back up, I put it in God’s hands. Yesterday, I told Cateresa that I love her and I always will.”