Girl, 15, attacked on way to school improving, talking to police

Tribune reporters

Two weeks after a 15-year-old girl was found beaten and raped on her way to school on the Northwest Side, the girl is improving and has been able to speak to investigators, police said.

The girl was attacked on Dec. 18 as she walked on the 2400 block of North Long Avenue in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood during the pre-dawn hours. She was found in a backyard at about 8 a.m. after leaving her home about two hours earlier and attempted to catch a bus to her school six miles away.

At an unrelated news conference today, Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said that the girl has recovered enough from her traumatic injuries to be interviewed. No one has been arrested.

“She can and she has been interviewed, which is a big step forward,” McCarthy said. “The victim in that case is doing a little bit better."

The girl was found by a neighbor who went outside for a smoke and saw the girl sprawled on the ground in the backyard of his home. There was a pool of blood around her head and her pants were off. She didn't say anything to police except, "On the way to school."

In addition, there were blood smears near a door bell which indicated that the girl may have been trying to get help.

The brutality of the attack spurred a community meeting days later which was packed with between 300 to 400 people where safety and added police were the main topics, said Ald. Ariel Reboyras, 30th.

On Monday afternoon, as Esperanza Sandoval, 46, walked home alone from a doctor’s appointment in the neighborhood, the attack remained on her mind.

“I do not want the night to catch me,” Sandoval said in Spanish.

Residents in the area said this week they have noticed increased police patrols.

“The good thing is that police are wandering around here,” said Maria Arriaza, who was walking with a friend and their two children Monday afternoon.

Residents have also noticed added vigilance among their neighbors.

Adilene Bahena, 16, who was running an errand Monday afternoon with her 17-year-old brother, Christian Bahena said she has noticed the habits of neighborhood parents change.

“Yeah everybody, they make their kids walk in groups,” Bahena said. “Parents are waiting for kids to come after school.”

Bahena said that while her mother never allowed her to walk alone, since the attack she now owns a personal panic alarm which she picked up at a community meeting. Also, another of her brothers was stopped by police and asked for identification. 

“It’s not to say that you’re part of something that went wrong,” the alderman said. “But police have a right to ask, 'who you are and why you are here and where you live and if you have an ID.”'

Resident Tomas Garcia said that despite increased surveillance, he still worries about his four kids who range from ages 6 to 15.
“I walk them to school every day,” Garcia said. “They shouldn’t be alone, the kids.”

While Reboyras expressed dismay at the rape, describing it as “the most gruesome crime I’ve seen in the area,” he hopes that at least it will increase historically low attendance in neighborhood CAPS meetings.

“They’re well attended when something goes wrong. When everything is going OK, and it’s quiet, the attendance drops,” Reboyras said. “I think police officers need to be as vigilant as they are today. More importantly, I think the community needs to be more involved.”

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