Cateresa Matthews' murder haunts her mother to this day. It's been more than two decades, and the killer hasn't been brought to justice.
Fourteen-year-old Cateresa was raped and murdered in 1991. Last week, authorities announced they were re-opening the notorious case that resulted in the convictions of five teens known as the Dixmoor Five who were later exonerated.
"I thank God that they opened the case to find out what really happened with my daughter," said Theresa Matthews, 53. "We don't have closure."
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- Dixmoor, IL, United States
At a press conference Monday, Matthews, somber and sometimes shaking, recalled the details of her daughter's disappearance and told reporters that she wants justice. She smiled only when describing Cateresa, a popular, outgoing teen who sang in the school choir and wanted to be an accountant.
On Nov. 19, 1991, Cateresa visited her grandmother's home, like she did most days after leaving Rosa Parks Middle School in Dixmoor. Later that afternoon, the teen called her mother and said she was headed home to Harvey on the bus. Her mother waited at the bus stop, but Cateresa never showed up.
Right away, Matthews knew something was wrong. She called her mother, who said Cateresa had left for the bus. Matthews reported her daughter missing to Dixmoor and Harvey police. Someone suggested the teen ran away, but Matthews knew that wasn't true.
"She had everything she wanted at home," said Matthews, who now lives in Chicago. "She didn’t have a reason to run away."
About three weeks later, Cateresa's body was found in a grassy field near Interstate 57. She had been raped and shot in the mouth.
Five teens were arrested for the teen's murder and eventually sentenced to prison. All five spent years behind bars until March 2011, when they were cleared of the crime after DNA tests failed to link any of them to the crime.
Authorities said they found the genetic profile of DNA at the crime scene matched a convicted rapist who had been paroled near Matthews' home before her death. That person has not been charged with Cateresa's rape and murder.
Learning that the Dixmoor Five were cleared of wrongdoing opened up old wounds for Matthews, who said she began to wonder if the killer would ever be found. "I had to live through this all over again. I thought it was all over," she said.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, whose office is leading the investigation along with Dixmoor police, said the agencies are examining "every little nuance" in the case and that the DNA match is not enough.
"With this case in particular, and all the different routes it has gone, I think it would be outrageously irresponsible on our part to just say let's close it out and we're all done," he said.
Matthews said she has found it hard to visit her daughter's gravesite and get through birthdays and holidays without Cateresa. Sunday was particularly difficult because Cateresa always had a surprise planned for her mother on Mother's Day, Matthews said.
Despite the pain, Matthews said she believes she is ready for the new investigation and prepared to fight for her daughter.
"She can't speak for herself," Matthews said. "We have to be her mouth for her, so we will be there."