As the city of Chicago continues to grapple with its biggest homicide spike in decades, a notorious one committed there decades ago has finally been resolved.
Illinois police initially charged five innocent teenage boys for the brutal abduction, rape and murder of 14-year-old Cateresa Matthews in November of 1991.
The girl was snatched in a Dixmoor neighborhood while she was waiting to take a bus home from her grandmother’s house. Her body wasn’t found until weeks later -- she had died from a single gunshot wound in the mouth.
All of the ‘Dixmoor Five’ black youths framed for Matthews’ shocking death served a minimum of ten years in prison before DNA tests exonerated them in 2011, implicating, instead, violent career-felon and registered sex-offender, Willie Randolph.
Now 58 and serving time on yet another drug-related offense, Randolph was a parolee in his early thirties 25 years ago when he is believed to have forcibly kidnapped Cateresa Matthews and driven her to a secluded place off Interstate-57.
Here, according to boasts Randolph has allegedly made to fellow inmates, he sexually assaulted the teen then shot her to death as she begged him not to kill her.
Cateresa’s corpse, together with a casing from the 25-caliber bullet that claimed her life, was spotted in a overgrown area near the highway on December 8, 1991; the gruesome discovery triggering a heavy-handed police inquiry that many have since compared to the infamous ‘Central Park Jogger’ arrests.
Illinois State Police assisted the Dixmoor Police Department with their 1990s investigation of the controversial case. Both agencies now stand accused of suppressing evidence and coercing false confessions from at least two of the five juvenile suspects which Chicago prosecutors later used to convict the entire group.
With help from the Innocence Project, the wrongful convictions of Robert Taylor, James Harden, Jonathan Barr, Robert Veal and Shainne Sharp were thrown out in 2011, resulting in 2014’s record-breaking settlement of $40-million by the State of Illinois for their unlawful imprisonments.
That same year the Cook County Sheriff’s Department launched its own probe of the Matthews kidnapping, rape and murder, but, despite DNA evidence already proving beyond a doubt that lifelong criminal Willie Randolph was the actual perpetrator, his arrest was still not forthcoming.
In fact, it wouldn’t be till September 1, 2016, a full two and a half decades after Cateresa Matthews was viciously attacked and slain by him, that Chicago authorities finally did charge Randolph for the crime. They also belatedly issued a public apology to each of the Dixmoor Five for victimizing them “in a way that can never possibly be repaired.”