Police arrest suspect in murder of pregnant woman

The man who police say shot a pregnant mother on Halloween night in the Back of the Yards neighborhood was charged today with first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Orlando Avila, 18, of the 4500 block of South Wolcott Avenue, was arrested Wednesday and charged today with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. According to police, Avila is a member of the Latin Saints street gang.

Leticia Barrera, 32, was shot in the head as she was returning home from trick-or-treating with her three children in the 4800 block of South Seeley Avenue.

Area One detectives working the case said Barrera was caught in the crossfire between rival gang members.

The case outraged the Southwest Side neighborhood and elicited a challenge from Mayor Richard M. Daley, who last November called on residents to step forward and identify the killer.

Images from a police camera on the corner of 48th and Seeley enabled officers to identify potential witnesses to the shooting, according to a police press release.

Community residents came forward to identify witnesses on the surveillance tape. Eventually, the offender was identified.

"Detectives used every possible investigative tool available to lead them to the offender, but the most important tool was the help from the community," Superintendent Jody P. Weis, said in a press release. "When someone in the community knows something or has witnessed something, their cooperation cannot be understated."

Father Thomas Cima, a pastor at St. Michael the Archangel Church on South Damen Avenue, said community members were relieved by news of the arrest.

"Their participation in this is an important piece which meets the challenge the mayor offered to us the night he came by and suggested that we knew who the killer was," Cima said.

Barrera's funeral mass, held at St. Michael's, was attended by 1,000 people. Father Cima came to know her family members and worked with community residents in the aftermath of the killing.

Cima said the shooting both galvanized neighbors and injected more fear into the community, in which the Saints, Raza and 2-6 gangs all have a significant presence. Both CAPS meetings and local social programs offered by the church saw increased attendance in its aftermath, he said.

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