02/04/2008

Ill. mall gunman still at large

By Michael Tarm
The Associated Press
Related: Gunman kills 5 in Chicago-area store

TINLEY PARK, Ill. — Police searching for the gunman who killed five women at a suburban Chicago strip mall have released little information about the crime, including any detailed description of the suspect or his possible motive.

Police said the shooting at the Lane Bryant clothing store appeared to be the result of a robbery attempt, but declined to say how it was stopped or who called 911.

"This has been an extremely sensitive investigation," police Chief Mike O'Connell said.

The department would not confirm news reports Sunday that a sixth woman was shot and survived the attack at strip mall southwest of downtown Chicago.

The Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, citing unnamed sources, said in stories posted on their Web sites that the survivor was treated at a hospital. The Sun-Times reported that the woman was released Sunday afternoon.

St. James Hospital spokeswoman Sherry Sissac confirmed that the facility received one female shooting victim Saturday but declined to give further information.

"We have not disclosed any information regarding the condition," she said Sunday. "We are not allowed to address any information involving a criminal investigation."

The five women — a manager and four customers — were herded into the back room of the store and killed shortly after it opened, authorities have said. The Will County coroner's office said all five died from gunshot wounds.

Police tape flapped in the wind in front of the boarded-up store, while mourners erected a memorial of crosses and flowers in the parking lot.

A tear rolled down Cindy Sorenson's cheek as she brought a bouquet of bright red roses to Lane Bryant. Sorenson, who works at a nearby mall, said she didn't know the victims, but couldn't stop thinking about them.

"You spend so much time in a store and you never think anything like this will happen," the 34-year-old Sorenson said.

The victims were identified as Connie R. Woolfolk, 37, of Flossmoor; Sarah T. Szafranski, 22, of Oak Forest; Carrie H. Chiuso, 33, of Frankfort; Rhoda McFarland, 42, of Joliet; and Jennifer L. Bishop, 34, of South Bend, Ind.

Chicago-area Lane Bryant stores were closed Sunday in memory of those who died. The store's parent company, Bensalem, Pa.-based Charming Shoppes Inc., offered a $50,000 reward for information that could lead to the gunman.

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