Woman slain, stuffed in garbage bag
Last Wednesday, Jose Hernandez opened the door to his Belmont Avenue apartment to let in his friend, Deena David.
Her stepfather lived in the attic apartment, and David had become a familiar and welcome sight to Hernandez.
That night would be the last time he'd see her alive.
Four days later Hernandez found David's body stuffed into a plastic bag in the closet of the attic apartment.
Today the stepfather was taken into custody in connection with David's death.
While the man's name has not been released pending charges, to Hernandez he was known simply by his first name, Jesus, and his nickname, Chupaz, a Spanish name meaning a person who drinks a lot of beer.
Every day, he would sit on the porch drinking beer "like clockwork," said Maria Rivera, 29, Hernandez's wife.
That's why his absence from the porch shortly after the disappearance of David, combined with what Hernandez described as a "foul odor" emanating from his apartment, made them extremely suspicious.
Hernandez said they called the police, who came to the apartment, but did not acknowledge anything out of the ordinary.
"The police came at 3:00 but said they didn't smell anything," said Rivera.
Rivera and Hernandez were also frustrated by the landlord, who they said refused to let them into the apartment.
Their suspicions, however, were too strong to ignore. "We took it upon ourselves," said Hernandez.
Rivera said she, her husband, and Ms. David's boyfriend kicked down the door and found David's body stuffed into a garbage bag in a closet.
"That's going to be engraved in my memory forever," said Rivera.
They didn't immediately know whose body it was.
"We started panicking," said Rivera. "I tore the bag open a little and started screaming."
The incident came as a complete shock to Rivera and her husband.
"He was a very quiet guy," Hernandez said of David's stepfather. He said that he never heard the two argue. "In this building you would hear it."
David's stepfather lived in the white clapboard house with green trim with David's 23-year-old half sister. Although David didn't live there, she spent a lot of time there.
According to Renee Bellinber, who said she is a close friend of the family, David was raised by her stepfather since she was about seven or eight years old and remained close to him.
"They were a really close family. They all called him 'Dad,'" she said.
"This is very much a shock to my family," she said. "No one ever saw the man mean and ugly. He was always there for them. He must have just snapped," she said.
David was unemployed and had been struggling financially. She relied on her stepfather for help, said Hernandez.
"She would come ask for money," he said.
According to Bellinber, David struggled with health and weight problems, and public aid wasn't enough to support her and her two children, 11- and 12-years-old.
"Deena tried to make it on her own but just couldn't," said Bellinber.
Today Hernandez knelt down to light candles next to a hand-lettered cardboard sign outside the apartment building he shares with David's stepfather.
"RIP Deena we love you," it said.
"She was a girl of fun, joy, happiness," said Hernandez.
Police were believed to have arrested a suspect in the case at O'Hare International Airport this morning as he tried to board a flight to Mexico.
CHICAGO CURRENT headlines