One year after Justin Murray, 19, was shot and killed in Evanston, police say they have identified at least one suspect and are closer to solving the murder.
Police believe that Blake Ross, 20, an Evanston resident who was shot and killed in Chicago this May, was at least partly responsible for Murray’s murder, according to Evanston Police Cmdr. Jason Parrott. Based on interviews with community members, police also believe there was at least one other person involved in the murder, and they think they know who that person is, according to Parrott.
There is not enough evidence at this point, however, to charge anyone in Murray’s murder, Parrott said, and police may “clear” the case on Blake Ross—in other words, they may consider it solved because an offender has been identified. That hasn’t happened, yet, however, he added.
“We’re not saying charges shouldn’t be brought, there just may not be enough evidence to do that,” Parrott said. “The case is not closed, it’s still an open investigation.
Murray’s Death: Nov. 29, 2012
Murray was shot in front of his grandmother’s home in the 1800 block of Brown Avenue on Nov. 29, 2012. Family members say he had just flown home that day from California, and was visiting with a friend that night. Witnesses saw and heard two offenders fire several shots from behind a fence two houses north of his grandmother’s home, according to police.
Evanston police have said that there are indications that the murder was gang-related, but that there are “no indicators that the victim, specifically, is a gang member.”
Murray graduated from Evanston Township High School in 2011, and then moved to San Diego, where he was working part-time and attending school, according to his mother, Carolyn Murray. She described him as “a very warm, passionate person,” who enjoyed working out and played football for the Wildkits during his freshman year.
Ross’s Death: May 12, 2013
Like Murray, Ross grew up in Evanston and also attended Evanston Township High School, although he did not graduate. His cousin, LaN’eca Ross, told Patch in May that he had five siblings and enjoyed playing with his younger nieces and nephews.
Ross’s body was found shot multiple times on May 12, 2013, on the far south side of Chicago, according to authorities. Evanston police have said that his death, too, may be tied to ongoing gang-related violence in Evanston, and that Ross may also have been an intended target of a shooting near the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center five days before he was killed.
Chicago police are still investigating Ross’ death, according to a spokesperson for the department. He said he could not provide information about any leads in the case, however, since it is an ongoing murder investigation.
Ross had documented gang affiliations, according to the Chicago Police department, but it is still undetermined whether gang ties played a role in his murder.
Families Question Evanston Police Investigation
Speaking at a recent Evanston city council meeting, Carolyn Murray told aldermen that she was disappointed in the possibility that police might clear her son’s murder without pressing charges against anyone.
“From all of the information that was told to me by the police, by family members, by residents, we know that there were at least three people on the scene of the crime,” she said. “If there is someone present during a murder, they were as guilty as the shooter.”
Parrott said, however, that police need lots of evidence to charge someone in a murder, and there just isn’t enough physical evidence to do so at this point.
“Because we clear one person, that does not mean we’re not trying to charge somebody else,” he added. Throughout the case, police have asked anyone with information to contact the detective bureau at 847-866-5040 or to use the Text-A-Tip system by texting any tip information and the word “EPD TIP” to the number CRIMES (274637).
Murray told council members, however, that she would like police to turn over the investigation files so she could hire a private investigator. She also said she would like to see federal agents get involved in the investigation.
Ross’s grandmother, Juanita Ross, also spoke at the city council meeting. She said that Evanston police interviewed her grandson after Murray was shot, but did not arrest him on an outstanding warrant.
“They questioned him, they let him go,” she said. “That should have come up with him, too.”