Area 5 Homicide: ‘Back to square one’ after pieces don’t fit
By FRANK MAIN Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org December 30, 2010 10:31AM
Chicago Police Detective Anthony Noradin shines a flashlight on a makeshift memorial at the scene of Loreto Miguel’s murder in July 2009 in the Palmer Square neigbhorhood on the Northwest Side. | JOHN J. KIM~SUN-TIMES
Updated: April 19, 2011 5:19AM
Originally published December 30, 2010
On the streets of the Northwest Side and inside Area 5 Homicide, one thing is usually a given: Detectives Tony Noradin and Don Falk do not curse. They don’t even raise their voices.
“There’s no need introducing more stress into the job than we already have,” Falk said.
But Aug. 31, 2009, wasn’t a usual day. Noradin and Falk were interviewing a teenager who was there when his friend Loreto Miguel was shot in the back of the head and killed on a sidewalk in the Palmer Square neighborhood on July 15, 2009. And they thought the friend — now jailed in an unrelated case — wasn’t telling them all he knew.
He kept changing his story and repeating that he didn’t know of any trouble between his and Loreto’s gang — called Orchestra Albany — and a rival gang, the Latin Lovers, which the detectives knew by now was a lie.
“Don’t give us this b - - - - - - - that you don’t know because you do,” Noradin exploded. “You haven’t told us anything in 25 minutes. You’re holding back. You haven’t told us s - - -!”
Then, Falk: “If you were shot and killed instead of Loreto, would you want him to cooperate with us?”
The friend fiddled with his blue jail slippers and tan jail uniform.
“I don’t know,” he said, almost bored. “I guess.”
They grilled him for an hour but were getting nowhere. They decided to send him back to the Cook County Jail, where he was being held in a robbery that he and fellow gang members were charged with pulling a few weeks after Loreto’s murder.
“Let him think on it,” Falk said to Noradin.
They still had another witness, a bystander who had seen the killer and should be able to identify him — if they could find him. What they needed was a name.
Another case solved
Detectives know there are some cases they might never solve. Others, though, come together quickly.
That’s what happened on another case Noradin and Falk had investigated a couple of months before Loreto Miguel’s murder. In two weeks, they arrested three people and closed the case.
“All the puzzle pieces fell into place,” Falk said.
The victim, Michael Norton, 55 — the owner for decades of Norton’s Sweet Shop at Cicero and North — had been tied up, robbed and shot to death in his store on May 14, 2009. The Glen Ellyn man had inherited the shop from his father, a retired Chicago cop, and wasn’t afraid of anyone. In 1991, he shot two men who tried to rob him at the store, killing one of them. He put in safety glass around the cashier’s counter after that but didn’t leave the neighborhood, where he was a popular figure, lending money to some of his customers when they were in need and sponsoring a few of them in Alcoholics Anonymous after getting sober 20 years before.
When Noradin and Falk found out that Norton was the brother of an Oak Park Police officer, “That got our attention,” Noradin said.
It’s not that they pursue one killer with less vigor than another based on who the victim was, he said.
But he said, “Here was a 55-year-old guy with a daughter — trying to make a living on the West Side. You can’t help but feel for the guy.”
Loreto Miguel wasn’t nearly as sympathetic a victim. He was a teenage gang member whose own friends and fellow gang members didn’t act like they cared whether his killer ever got caught.
Still, Noradin and Falk kept at the case.
They thought they had come close to closing it once, too, but for some bad luck. About a month after Loreto was killed, one of the witnesses the detectives had interviewed on the day of the shooting caught a glimpse of the killer, spotting him near the murder scene at Palmer and Sacramento.
But the witness, scared, waited till the next day before letting the detectives know.
“It’s frustrating,” Falk said. “We could have been out on the street and picked him up.”
Months would pass, and the witness never spotted the man again. It was as if he had vanished.
Now, Noradin and Falk needed Loreto’s friend’s cooperation. And they had an idea how to get it. Falk headed to the South Side, to the spotless, Spartan apartment where Loreto’s parents lived. There was a poster on the front door of the late Pope John Paul II. Falk asked: Would they come to the police station? He needed their help to get their son’s friend to help them find his killer.
“Claro,” Loreto’s father said.
Sometimes, a surprise confession
Falk and Noradin hadn’t needed any help to get witnesses to cooperate when they investigated the murder of sweet shop owner Michael Norton.
A woman who lived on the second floor of Norton’s building told the detectives she was waiting for a pizza and saw a van circling his store. She recognized the driver as Beatrice Rosado, another tenant.
The detectives, now armed with the name of the possible getaway driver, went home to catch some sleep after working 15 hours, and two other detectives, James Adams and Stephen Czablewski, picked up the case and followed a hunch. They ran Rosado’s name through a police database as a victim, rather than as an offender. Sure enough, she had filed a domestic-abuse report against her boyfriend, Elvin Payton.
The detectives took a mug shot of Payton to their witnesses, who identified him as one of the men who had run from the store after Norton was shot.
Now, the detectives had the names and photos of two suspects. They also had a red-light camera video of the possible getaway vehicle.
Rosado and Payton turned themselves in after the police went to see their families, but they denied they were involved in the murder. Still, Payton agreed to take a polygraph. The detectives told him his answers were “deceptive.”
And Payton — of all things — started confessing.
“I was in shock,” Falk said. “I think he was relieved to tell his story after being on the run for a week.”
Payton implicated Rosado, saying they decided to rob Norton figuring the “old man wouldn’t fight back.”
Then, he dropped a bombshell: His accomplice inside the store wasn’t a ponytailed man, as the witnesses had reported, but, instead, a woman, Kerry Masterson.
Witnesses picked Payton and Rosado out of lineups. Rosado gave a videotaped confession, and prosecutors OKd murder charges against her and Payton. Five days later, Masterson turned herself in. Witnesses picked her out of a lineup, and she, too, was charged with murder.
Payton, 27, pleaded guilty and got 47 years in prison. Rosado, 25, also pleaded guilty and got 22 years in prison. Masterson, 24, is in jail, awaiting trial.
“It’s always satisfying,” Falk said of closing a case with murder charges. “It doesn’t matter if the victim is innocent or has been arrested 40 or 50 times.”
‘You’re a man, right?’
It was now 38 days since Loreto Miguel’s murder, and his mother, father and younger brother were back at Area 5 Homicide for the third time.
The mother and father sat in the same plastic chairs they had sat in before. The son stood behind them and massaged his mother’s shoulders.
After a few minutes, the detectives came in, bringing Loreto’s friend from Orchestra Albany and that fateful night in Palmer Square. They sat him in a swivel chair facing the family. He looked like a scared little kid, not a hardened gang member with a rap sheet showing 20 arrests already.
Loreto’s mom looked into the eyes of her son’s friend. “I think you know who killed my son,” she told him. “Are you scared of the person who did this to my son?”
“No,” he said sheepishly.
Detective Juan C. Morales, translating the parents’ comments from Spanish to English, asked him: “You are a man, right?”
He shrugged. “Yeah,” he said.
And suddenly, for the first time, the detectives sensed he might help them.
“If you saw a picture of [the killer], could you identify him?” Noradin asked.
“Probably,” he said. “Yeah.”
The friend went on to give a few details about the suspect and what he had shouted at the murder scene — something that only the killer and the witness would know.
It was something, even if Noradin and Falk still didn’t think he had told them all he knew.
The Miguel family left, and Noradin asked Loreto’s friend: “Why didn’t you tell us this stuff yesterday?”
“I feel different because the family was here,” he said.
‘Back to square one’
Though they were pleased to get something, finally, from the friend, Noradin and Falk still were far from an arrest. A few months passed, and a fresh lead turned up. They learned that a dark-skinned man on a bike was suspected of riding up to a man named Michael Hernandez and shooting him to death on Aug. 12, 2009 — a few weeks after Loreto was killed.
The 31-year-old suspect wouldn’t talk to the detectives who were handling the Hernandez case. He was charged with a weapons violation while the Hernandez investigation continued.
The shooting happened about a mile south of where Loreto Miguel had taken a bullet in the back of the head. Noradin and Falk decided to look at whether the 31-year-old man might have been involved in Loreto’s murder, too.
On Nov. 17, 2009, Noradin and Falk took the suspect from jail back to Area 5 to see if one of their witnesses could identify him as Loreto’s killer.
“Why am I going to Area 5?” the suspect asked.
“You’ll find out when you get there,” Falk told him.
At the station, the detectives told the man he was going to stand in a lineup and needed to change out of his jail uniform.
He asked for cigarettes. Noradin gave him a couple of Newports. He also asked for food from McDonald’s: a 10-piece Chicken McNugget meal and a double cheeseburger.
“He’s jonesing for a cigarette,” Noradin said after leaving the room. “OK, let’s go feed our boy.”
After he ate, the man changed into the street clothes he was wearing when he was arrested.
The suspect, who’s African American, stood in a row of men of similar height, race and weight who had been brought over from the lockup at another police station.
The witness — the bystander who had seen the killer shoot Loreto — inspected the row of men through a window.
“Have you ever done a lineup?” Noradin asked the witness.
“They can’t see you through the glass,” Noradin assured the witness.
“Take your time looking at them. If he’s not in there, he’s not in there. If he is, he is. I’ll tell you when to talk and not to talk.”
“All right. Got it.”
The witness looked at the men and made clear, immediately, with a head shake “No” — that the killer wasn’t one of those in the lineup.
“I appreciate your coming in here,” Noradin said.
The witness left, and Noradin and Falk returned to the homicide office.
“The witness said the guy absolutely is not in that room,” Noradin said. “Actually, this is good. There was no hesitation.”
Noradin had snapped a Polaroid photo of the men in the lineup. He placed it in a manila envelope, put the envelope on his desk and turned to Falk.
“Back to square one,” Noradin said.
A year has passed since Noradin and Falk held that lineup. They have solved six murders since then — all of them now listed in blue on the erasable board in the Area 5 Homicide office.
Blue — for cleared.
But Loreto’s name is still on the board, too, in red — unsolved. His murder is among the 30 percent of killings that went uncleared last year in Chicago.
“I still have a lot of hope that Loreto’s case will be cleared,” Falk said, “one day.”