Area 5 Homicide, Part 2: Parents, cops search for justice
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporteremail@example.com April 18, 2011 3:31PM
The parents of Loreto Miguel attempt to identify known associates of their deceased son during an interview at the detectives' office. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: April 18, 2012 5:20PM
Originally published December 29, 2010
SERIES: AREA 5 HOMICIDE | INSIDE A CHICAGO MURDER
The parents of murder victim No. 42 of 2009 on Chicago’s Northwest Side came into the Area 5 Homicide office for the first time one week after their teenage son was shot and killed on a sidewalk in Palmer Square.
Loreto Miguel’s mother and father had the same questions the parents of a teenage murder victim always have:
Do you know who did this? When are you going to arrest someone? Why haven’t you arrested anyone yet?
When are you going to arrest someone?
Why haven’t you arrested anyone yet?
No matter that 17-year-old Loreto was a known gang member and had been out with other gang members or that his murder was thought to be a gang killing.
“Is anyone arrested?” Efran Miguel, the father, asked Detectives Tony Noradin and Don Falk in Spanish.
Falk was matter-of-fact.
“No one is in custody,” he told Miguel and his wife, Francisca.
And he offered nothing more. It was still early in the investigation, at a point when homicide detectives suspect everyone. Even a victim’s own family might know something. And any edge might help. Hundreds of people are killed in Chicago each year. Some killings go unsolved. Only a third of the 461 murders in Chicago the year that Loreto Miguel was gunned down were “cleared” by the police.
Efran Miguel sat with his wife in the plastic chairs the detectives had placed in front of their desks at Area 5 Homicide, in the police station at Grand and Central.
He wore a blue cap bearing a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe that he removed and cradled in his hands, a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Chicago, Illinois” and a look of deep concern. His brown eyes scanned the walls of the beige, cinder-block room, stopping for a moment at the erasable-marker board on which the names of each of the year’s homicide victims on the Northwest Side were written, along with a number. Loreto was No. 42. Noradin and Falk needed to make him more than a number to solve his killing.
Falk began by prompting the couple: Tell us about your son.
So Efran Miguel did. He had moved his family to Chicago seven years earlier, from Mexico, landing first in Palmer Square, the largely Hispanic neighborhood near Sacramento and Fullerton where Loreto’s life ended on the sidewalk at West Palmer and North Humboldt Boulevard on July 15, 2009.
Miguel, who was working as a busboy at a restaurant, saw that it was a dangerous place. So he moved his family to the South Side to try to get his son away from the gangs in Palmer Square.
But the Miguels couldn’t keep their son away from the neighborhood and the friends there he liked to smoke and drink with.
“I said, ‘These guys really aren’t your friends,’ ” the father told the detectives. “I feel really bad because my son wouldn’t listen to us.”
Noradin and Falk listened. They’d heard it before, too often, from other parents with other sons lost to violence.
Miguel told them his son had gone to Darwin Elementary — a few blocks from where he was killed — but dropped out at just 14.
Darwin was the birthplace of the gang with the unlikely name of Orchestra Albany, so named because the school is on Albany Avenue and some of the gang’s founders back in 1971 were members of the school band.
It was Loreto’s gang. He had worked part time at a McDonald’s, unloaded boxes of fruit from trucks and had other odd jobs. But mostly he spent his time hanging out in Palmer Square with other Orchestra Albany gang members.
“Nobody wants to say anything, these friends of his,” Loreto’s mother said.
Falk printed out photos of some of the teenagers the detectives knew Loreto was with the night he was killed and spread them out for the parents to look at. Mixed in were pictures of others they knew hadn’t been with him.
Francisca Miguel studied the photos and picked out several kids. Falk told her they were the ones who had been with her son. “They’ve been in my home,” the mother said, shaking her head.
Then, she and her husband stood to leave. They had arrangements to make to bury their son.
“Gracias,” they said as one to the detectives.
“Thank you,” Falk said.
‘He wanted to be buried
in the United States’
More than 50 people packed Caribe Funeral Home near Armitage and Kedzie for Loreto Miguel’s funeral. It was a hot day. The air conditioner was straining.
Loreto’s body was in a slate-gray casket. He was dressed in a white suit and a white cap. A white carnation had been placed on his breast.
Young men in black T-shirts and denim shorts stood over the open casket. Most knew Loreto from Palmer Square.
“This was his home, not the South Side,” said Loreto’s 14-year-old brother, Jose. “My dad worked day and night. My brother felt alone and joined a gang to find friends outside the house.
“My brother was arrested three times and got sent to juvenile detention. He served out his probation by living with my parents on the South Side. But once probation was over, he was coming back to the neighborhood here.”
Jose gestured toward his brother in the casket. He said his brother didn’t identify with their parents’ Mexican heritage. He loved hip-hop music and video games and was totally American.
“He said if he was going to die, he wanted to be buried in the United States and not in Mexico.”
Two weeks after Loreto Miguel’s murder, Noradin and Falk pulled into an alley in their unmarked blue car. An old man there was spray-painting a garage door to try to cover up gang graffiti. But through the fresh white paint you could still read the letters “LLK.” Latin Lover Killer.
“This stuff fresh?” Noradin asked
The man nodded. “They got no respect, these kids around here,” he said.
Noradin and Falk were checking out a tip that, in response to Loreto’s murder, his gang had tagged the Palmer Square neighborhood with graffiti to send a message to a rival gang, the Latin Lovers, whose stronghold is south of Palmer, east of Humboldt, west of California and north of Armitage. Orchestra Albany’s turf: north of Palmer Street, east of Kedzie and south of Milwaukee. They were neighbors.
And Orchestra Albany gang members had tagged buildings and garage doors with the words “Latin Lover Killer” to say they planned to kill a member of the Latin Lovers in answer for Loreto’s murder.
The Latin Lovers responded by spraypainting graffiti of their own, reading “OA Killer,” targeting Orchestra Albany.
The graffiti backed up what informants had been telling gang investigators: The OAs were trying to grab Latin Lovers’ turf, and the Latin Lovers were fighting back.
It looked like a war was brewing. And Loreto was the first casualty.
‘It was a little bike’
Around the same time, Noradin and Falk went to see a guy who lives near where Loreto was killed.
He told them he was sitting on his bed at the time, near a window, and saw a dark-skinned man — black, maybe — riding a bicycle south on Humboldt Boulevard. No face. Just his short, curly hair and the bike.
“It was a little bike, not big,” he said.
Maybe something, maybe not. Sometimes, a seemingly small thing can turn out to be a big deal in a murder case.
“You never know,” Noradin said.
He and Falk had been working on the case for two weeks now. They had two credible witnesses and a few bits that might help. But, to their disappointment, they had learned that surveillance cameras they hoped might have captured the shooting weren’t working. And no one seemed to have any idea who killed Loreto — not even the friend who was standing next to him when he was gunned down. On the day of the murder, he had told the detectives he wouldn’t be able to identify the shooter. Nor did he have any idea why Loreto was killed.
The detectives knew he wasn’t telling everything he knew. They figured he didn’t want to be known as a “trick” — someone who cooperates with the cops. It’s a wall they run up against often. “No-snitching” is a basic tenet of gang life, even if it would involve nothing more than giving up the name of a rival gang member. You snitch, you take a beating, or worse.
So, for now, the detectives decided, it was time to step away, work on other cases, and see what chatter police gang investigators might pick up.
“A lot of times, if we don’t get the bad guy within the first 48 hours, we wait for things to develop,” Noradin said.
‘I want justice’
A few weeks after Loreto’s murder, his parents and brother came back to Area 5 Homicide. This time, the father kept his hat on his head, fidgeted with one of the detectives’ business cards and asked, through a translator, “Have you detained anyone in this case? It’s been days, and we have heard nothing.”
The truth was that the investigation was at a standstill. The detectives had moved on to new shootings.
“We don’t have any developments to report,” Noradin told the family.
Efran Miguel asked the detectives to give him the cell phone his son had in his hand when he was killed.
“I want to look through his phone,” the father said, “to see if any of his friends can supply us with information.”
The friend who was with Loreto when he was killed, Efran Miguel said, “El sabe todo.”
He knows everything.
“We don’t believe everything he told us was true,” Falk acknowledged.
Loreto’s brother Jose broke in, confirming what the detectives had heard: “My brother told me they were at war — the OAs wanted to take over Latin Lovers’ territory.”
Someone in his brother’s gang knew who the shooter was but “was going to take care of it himself,” he said.
Efran Miguel stood.
“I want justice and will not stop bothering you until I get it,” he said.
Again, Falk agreed: “We want justice, too.”
ABOUT THIS SERIES
For four months, A Chicago Sun-Times reporter and photographer shadowed Area 5 Homicide detectives Tony Noradin and Don Falk as they investigated the murder of 17-year-old Loreto Miguel on the Northwest Side.
*Anyone with information about this case should call Area 5 Homicide at (312) 746-8282.
Coming Thursday: Some cases come together, some don’t.