Hyde Park Chicago Teen Dead at 17
Just one day before Sandy Brown was arrested and jailed in Texas, a female was found dead in an abandoned Gary, Ind. building in the 700 block of East 7th Avenue in Gary Tuesday night, authorities said. She was identified as a 17-year-old girl from Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.
The deceased name was Connita L. Richardson, a resident of the 800 block of East Hyde Park Boulevard. She would have been a senior at Dunbar High School this fall.
The police initially received an anonymous call around 7:20 pm tipped police about a suspicious person inside an abandoned building, according to a statement from Gary police. When officers arrived, they found the body of an unidentified female lying facedown with “minor trauma to the body,” police said. Gary police Sgt. Thomas Decanter said the caller stated the woman’s body was inside the school at 716 E. 7th Ave. The building is owned by the Gary Community School Corp., which closed the school in 2008.
Upon their arrival Connita was already dead at the scene and her death was ruled a homicide, according to the Lake County coroner’s office. An autopsy the following Wednesday found her cause of death to be asphyxiation by strangulation, according to the coroner’s office. It was not ruled a suicide.
Police from the Lake Metro Homicide Unit canvassed the area around the vacant school Wednesday hoping to find clues about the woman found inside. So far, no one is in custody in connection with the killing. It’s not even clear as to why the teen was in Gary.
Because Connita was last seen with a cousin who was recently released from jail Gary police are searching for him. She was last seen Sunday visiting her grandfather in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Her body was found two days later in an abandoned building in the old Emerson high school, a building that’s been abandoned since 2008.
Richardson’s grandfather knew it was her after seeing a news report of an unidentified girl found dead who had tattoos and a charm necklace.
Gary mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has made it her mission to tear down the hundreds of abandoned homes and businesses in the city. She says it’s very frustrating when another body is dumped in a building in her town.
“It really does speak into a misperception about the community as just being categorically unsafe,” she said. “And that’s not what we’ve seen. That’s not our experience.”
This past October, accused killer Darren Vann led police to the bodies of six women he allegedly killed and left in abandoned homes throughout Gary.
Police have not been able to talk with Richardson’s cousin who saw her last. Her family believes he may have left the area.
She had a tattoo on her left bicep that featured the word “gorgeous” with a bird. There was a tattoo on her right abdomen with flowers and the word “love.” She wore a gold necklace with a charm that said “Coco.”
The coroner’s office pronounced her dead about 8:20 p.m. Tuesday.
The following afternoon, a stunned neighbor said she and her kids typically walk by the school every day.
“I’m not understanding how it was possible,” she said. “There’s a police officer here almost every day.”
Over the past several years, vandals and scrappers have ravaged Emerson, Gary’s first high school that opened in 1909. Its windows are gone and the school, once an anchor in the east side neighborhood, is now one of its biggest eyesores.
Gary school district spokeswoman Charmella Greer said many of its closed schools have been boarded up. “But we have experienced break-ins, as well as windows broken out. Unfortunately this is larger than an abandoned school building.
The good news is that out of the unfortunate and untimely death of Connita, “This unfortunate tragedy should lead to a larger conversation with community stakeholders, residents, along with others at the table to bring about solutions for a safe community.”
Greer said money will be needed for such solutions and the school district is broke. The district has more than 20 vacant schools, including its former administration building at 620 E. 10th Place. Already, the lawn at the center is not being mowed.
Inside Emerson on Wednesday, books still lay on desks and lessons were written on blackboards, along with graffiti. A piano keyboard was on the floor in a hallway, near police tape.
The horrid discovery ruined the week for city officials who were planning a gala grand opening of the new, extended runway at the Gary/Chicago International Airport and the return of the Gary Air Show at Marquette Park that Saturday and Sunday.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the time is over for talking about abandoned structures that blanket the community. “We need to do something,” she said.
Freeman-Wilson said the city supports its Gary for Life initiative that tackles neighborhood blight. “We realize that everything we do is tied to crime. That’s the whole point of the 5X5 initiative,” in which volunteers clean up neighborhoods five blocks at a time.
“When you look at blight attached to abandoned buildings like schools and churches in disrepair, it’s a significant challenge we haven’t been able to get our arms around. There isn’t a lot of money available for demolition of commercial structures.”
Freeman-Wilson said none of the more than 20 closed public schools, including Emerson has been cited as a safety hazard by city officials. “We’re not in the business of citing another governmental entity that’s under financial distress,” she said.
Last year, police found the bodies of six women stashed in vacant houses across the city. Darren Deon Vann, who has been charged in two of the killings, led police to five sites where he said he left women’s bodies after killing them, police said. The Lake County prosecutor’s office is seeking the death penalty against Vann in two of the killings.
Meanwhile the hunt is on for Connita’s murderer.