Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Charge Clearing Man With Murder in Stabbing Death on Narragansett

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

A 31-year-old Clearing man has been charged with first-degree
Victor Smekal

murder after he was arrested on Tuesday, November 17 in Merrillville, Indiana.

Victor A. Smekal, of the 6400 block of South Narragansett, allegedly stabbed and killed 40-year-old Nicholas Alonzo two months ago.

Alonzo was stabbed in the chest and stomach during an argument just after 1:15 a.m. September 17 in a home the 6400 block of South Narragansett.

Alonzo was transported to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Bond was denied. Smekal is in custody of the Cook County Department of Corrections. His next scheduled court date is Wednesday, December 9.

According to public records, Smekal has been arrested five times by CPD since 2014 on charges that included reckless conduct, unlawful use of a weapon, possession of a controlled substance and theft.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Small Town in the Big City

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

If anyone wonders why Clearing and Garfield Ridge are big-city neighborhoods with a small-town heart, look no further than Liz Trench.

Here’s the big-city part:

On Friday, Oct. 30, a masked thug walked into Clean Clean dry cleaners, 6417 W. Archer, and robbed the place.

A lone bandit walked up to owner Paul Lee, pulled a handgun and used it to whack him on the back of the head. And while Mr. Lee was bleeding and reeling from what may have been a concussion, the robber pulled the cash drawer and made off with a haul estimated in the high hundreds of dollars.

He remains at large and may be the same bandit who has robbed small businesses elsewhere on the Southwest Side and suburbs.

As anyone who has ever owned a business knows, a robbery can be a traumatic thing. Even days later you can feel terrified, violated and all alone.

Such was the case with Mr. Lee and Clean Clean--a well-liked, family-owned and operated business in Garfield Ridge since about 1984.

Here’s the small-town heart part:

Upon learning of the robbery in a local Facebook group, Clearing resident Liz Trench opened her heart and sprang into action.

Like many, Liz is a customer and fan of Clean Clean. She told me she has always been touched by how kind Mr. Lee is to everyone.

"It broke my heart when I found out,” Liz said. “He is kind, sweet, patient and polite. He works so hard."

Liz described the robbery as an "invasion into his life, business, community and home."

If you’re nodding a nod of recognition right about now, you may know what it is to own and operate your own small business. It is indeed your life and your home.

Anyway, Liz went over to Clean Clean to offer a few words of comfort. What she saw was not a surprise.

"His eyes were so sad and empty,” Liz said. “He looked like he hadn't slept. He had been crying. It was so heartbreaking to see. The light in his eyes was gone.”

She then presented him with a card and flowers. Mr. Lee was so touched, he had to choke back tears.

But Mr. Lee had not seen the last of Liz.

Liz admits that she’s "not a person to sit back and do nothing. It's been a long time since I sat back." She decided she wanted to raise money to help out the man who had treated her so well. She started a football pool for an upcoming NFL game.

Within just 24 hours, Liz raised $2,000—half going to prize payouts and half going to—well, you can guess.

So on Tuesday, Nov. 10, Liz walked into Clean Clean and presented a cheerful, colorful board with 20 $50 bills attached.

This time, Mr. Lee could not choke back his tears. They flowed
freely, if only for a few moments.

What Liz did may not take away Mr. Lee's memory of the robbery, but it clearly let him know he is not alone—that he is respected, liked and yes, loved by many people in the small town known as Clearing-Garfield Ridge.

The video helps tell the tale:

If “Liz Trench” sounds like a familiar name, it should.
Liz is a lifelong Clearing resident who graduated from Hale School and then went on to Maria High School. These days, she works at Hale Park as a teacher and coach and has worked at Wentworth Park.

She loves what she does, and through her work over the years, she has made life better for hundreds of people (if not more).

She made headlines in late 2018 when she earned the Teacher of the Year Award from the Garfield Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

Still a Clearing resident, Liz is married to her wife, Amy, and is mom to two boys ages 15 and 12.

So thanks, Liz Trench. People like you make this “small town in the big city” the special place that it is.

And my thanks to Carrie Buglio for alerting me to this act of kindness. Could not have told the story without you, Carrie.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Crime News Update

 Editor's note: The crime news reported by the Southwest Chicago Post---taken directly from Chicago Police Department incident reports---is not by any means an exhaustive catalogue of all crime reported in the Chicago Lawn (8th) District. For example, it typically does not include news of crimes committed in the eastern sectors of the district---because the Southwest Chicago Post's coverage area is primarily the neighborhoods that border Midway Airport and secondarily because including the relatively large volume of crime news from elsewhere in the district would be a logistical challenge. We make this note to offer a little helpful perspective and remind everyone that while crime is definitely a concern in all parts of the district (as it always has been), crime remains relatively low overall in the western section of the district. May all of us work together diligently to keep it that way. May all of us also remember that a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

* * *

Claim man threw woman against wall
Juan Marinez

A 24-year-old West Lawn man was charged with domestic battery after he was arrested in the 3900 block of West 56th Place at 11:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4.

Juan A. Marinez, of the 7200 block of South Springfield, allegedly grabbed a 23-year-old woman by the neck and threw her against a wall during an argument.

Claim man had child porn on his computer
Gabriel Herrera

A 39-year-old West Lawn man was charged with possession of child pornography after he was arrested at his home in the 6600 block of South Kolin at 2:10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14.

Gabriel Herrera was apprehended without incident. A CPD spokesman said that a computer tablet that Herrera had pawned was found to contain at least one item considered to be child pornography. The pawn shop, not named by a CPD spokesman, alerted police.

According to public records, Herrera was arrested twice by CPD in 2016—once on an assault charge, once on a theft charge.

Suburban woman busted for burglary in Garfield Ridge

A 19-year-old woman from suburban Schaumburg was charged with three counts of burglary
Ivayla Zaharieva

after she was arrested in the 5400 block of South Nordica at 4:45 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17.

Ivayla Zaharieva, of the 400 block of Verde Drive, allegedly stole a USB cord from a vehicle parked nearby.

A CPD spokesman said that officers on patrol also saw Zaharieva trying to open a door of a nearby home. Further, she reportedly was found to be holding a Macy’s shopping bag that contained clothes that did not belong to her, police added.

A computer check revealed she was wanted on a warrant, although the spokesman did not say why she wanted or which jurisdiction issued the warrant.

Claim man used vehicle to ram woman’s vehicle
John Ogden

A 24-year-old Near West Side man was charged with aggravated assault and criminal damage to property after he was arrested in the 4000 block of West Columbus at 3:50 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9.

John R. Ogden, of the 1300 block of West Erie, allegedly used his vehicle to ram the vehicle of a 25-year-old woman, a CPD spokesman said without elaborating.

According to public records, Ogden has been arrested eight times by CPD since 2014 on such charges as criminal trespass to a vehicle, assault and theft.

Bust man for DUI on Cicero Avenue
Gustavo Velazquez

A 32-year-old Near North Side man was charged with DUI, as well as carrying open liquor in a vehicle, after he was arrested in the 8000 block of South Cicero at 7:05 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11. 

Gustavo Macia Velazquez, of the 400 block of West Division, was reportedly apprehended by police responding to a 911 call of a man staggering down a sidewalk. A CPD spokesman did not say what alcohol was reportedly found in his vehicle.

Claim Lockport man drove drunk, crashed pickup
Fructuoso Rangel

A 46-year-old man from suburban Lockport was charged with DUI, using a cellphone while driving, transporting open alcohol in a vehicle, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and leaving the scene of an accident after he was arrested in the 6100 block of South Pulaski at 11:42 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10.

Fructuoso Rangel was identified by a witness as the man who crashed his pickup truck into a vehicle in the 6100 block of South Lawndale, minutes before his arrest.

Kicked me in the leg, woman tells police
William Green

A 32-year-old Clearing man was charged with domestic battery after he was arrested at his home in the 6200 block of West 64th Place at 12:52 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 18.

William Green allegedly kicked a 32-year-old woman in the leg during an argument.

Charge man with domestic battery
Jerry Frausto

A 36-year-old Archer Heights man was charged with domestic battery after he was arrested in the 3300 block of West 57th Street at 3:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17.

Jerry C. Frausto, of the 5000 block of South Kenneth, allegedly kicked and punched a 33-year-old woman, as well as dragged her up steps, during an argument. 

Claim man swiped TV from RR freight car
Lavail Moutry

A 29-year-old Wrightwood man was charged with theft after he was arrested near his home in the 7600 block of South Artesian at 10:51 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14.

Lavail J. Moutry was apprehended without incident. Police said he had stolen a flat-screen TV from a nearby railroad freight car.

A CPD spokesman did not say if the arrest of Moutry was connected to the theft of 71 65-inch Samsung flat-screen TVs (valued at a total of $37,000) that had been stolen from a nearby railroad freight car about 10 hours earlier.

Paintballers attack man on 55th Street

A 32-year-old Pilsen man was hit in the head with an orange paintball as he walked down a sidewalk in the 4600 block of West 55th Street at 3:35 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14. The victim said the shooter appeared to have fired from a red sedan, which sped away east on 55th Street. The victim refused medical attention.

Claim man drove drunk into deck
Jan Dunaj

A 65-year-old Clearing man was charged with DUI, negligent driving and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident after he was arrested near his home in the 6000 block of South Rutherford at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11.

Jan Dunaj was the driver of a vehicle that reportedly jumped a curb and crashed into the backyard deck of a home at 60th and Rutherford, minutes before his arrest.

Dunaj also was charged with driving without a license and driving without insurance.

# # #

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Serving Pancakes, Protecting Police

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

Congratulations and thanks to all those responsible for the success of today's Get Behind the Vest pancake breakfast at St. Daniel the Prophet Parish.

The griddles were fired up and busy as gallons and gallons of batter were poured and quickly made into pancakes--then paired with link sausages and given to several hundred hungry Southwest Siders who paid just $5 a serving.

The drive-through/walk-up event was hosted by 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares, 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn, Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch President Al Cacciottolo--aided by an able and hardy crew of volunteers.

Also on hand as a friendly volunteer was Garfield Ridge Chamber of Commerce President Mary Ellen "Mari" Brown.

Proceeds are going to the Chicago Police Memorial
Foundation's Get Behind the Vest initiative, which purchases protective vests for police officers on the front lines.

Bullet proof vests need to be replaced every five years, at a cost to police officers of about $500 or more. Over the past five years, the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation has replaced 11,250 outdated bullet proof vests currently in use by Chicago Police Officers.

Since January, CPMF has purchased 3,300 vests. To date, 48
Chicago Police officers’ lives have been saved by bullet proof vests.

Businesses making donations to the event included SHOP’n
SAVE, Dunkin' Donuts, Three Sons Pancake House & Family Restaurant, Home Run Inn, Mike Riordan State Farm Agency, Lux Auto Body Inc, Caliber Home Loans, McDonald's, First Rate Realty, Amigo Pest Control, Ridge Funeral Home & Cremation Services, and Triano’s Pizza.

If you missed the breakfast but want to help the cause, visit the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation website at

The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation is a not-for- profit
organization that provides assistance to the families of Chicago Police officers who were killed or catastrophically injured in the line of duty. Established in 2004, the Foundation works to strengthen the relationship between the Chicago Police, its business and civic leaders, and its citizenry. To date, the Foundation has donated more than $14 million to family members of Chicago Police officers in need of