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Citizens praised for helping track down accused killer

North Chicago Mayor LeRockingham talks about arrest charges Jim McPhers21 who allegedly shot killed 18-year-old Janay McFarlane 18 North Chicago

North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham talks about the arrest and charges of Jim McPherson, 21, who allegedly shot and killed 18-year-old Janay McFarlane, 18, in North Chicago last Friday. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 22, 2013 10:30AM

NORTH CHICAGO — The man who has been charged with the murder of young mom Janay McFarlane was arrested soon after the crime was committed because witnesses provided crucial information.

Law enforcement officials who spoke during a press conference held at North Chicago City Hall on Wednesday praised citizens for coming forward.

“We’re proud people got involved,” said Police Chief James Jackson. “They cared. The message we want to send out to citizens is ‘You can make a difference by working with us. We don’t want the code of silence. We need your eyes and ears. We’re going to do everything we can to work with you to bring anybody who crosses the line and does these horrendous acts to justice.’”

“It was the citizens of North Chicago who made this happen,” said Mayor Leon Rockingham. “I commend them. This is what we need throughout our community.”

Jim McPherson, 21, of North Chicago, was taken into custody just 30 minutes after McFarlane was struck in the head by a bullet as she walked in an alley off Jackson Street with two friends on the night of Feb. 15. McPherson’s brother was also taken into custody, but has not been charged. Both Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim and Jackson declined to give details of the investigation.

“Another person is being questioned,” Jackson said. “We’re still looking at all the evidence and information we’re still receiving.”

The victim’s father, Herb McFarlane of Beach Park, who also spoke at the press conference, thanked Nerheim, Rockingham and CeaseFire, a violence prevention group that has been working to prevent retaliation for his daughter’s death.

“But most of all, I want to thank the citizens of North Chicago,” McFarlane said. “Without you guys I don’t know if they would have caught who killed my child.”

It’s not unusual in North Chicago — where last year there were 19 incidents of aggravated battery by a firearm and one fatal shooting — for both victims and witnesses to give police the cold shoulder.

Jackson said circumstances were different this time.

“This was a tight-knit community and they knew the young lady,” he said. “They were offended by what happened. It moved them. It didn’t take much pushing on our end to elicit cooperation. They were there as soon as it happened, trying to give information and trying to be helpful and they were − the family included.”

Herb McFarlane, who recently moved to Beach Park from Chicago, where Janay, who was in town visiting friends, still lived, said he had taken a call from her an hour before she was killed to discuss his plan to pick up his 3-month-old grandson, Janay’s child. “She was calling to ask what time I was coming,” he said. “The next call I got, she was gone.”

McFarlane mused on gun violence in the suburbs.

“There’s violence everywhere,” he said, noting he moved out of Chicago “to get away from the violence, but the lesson I’ve learned (is) you can’t just get away from it. But as a community we just have to keep sticking together or it will happen again.

“I will personally work with people to try to stop this from happening to other families,” McFarlane said. “I don’t want my child or no one else’s child to die in vain.”

Nerheim praised the Northern Illinois Regional Crime Lab and other law enforcement personnel and singled out North Chicago police investigators who worked through the weekend gathering and processing evidence. He also thanked the citizens of North Chicago.

“This case could not have been solved so quickly without a lot of people who stood up and helped police,” he said. “Without their cooperation, without their help, this investigation could have taken a very different turn.”

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