Five killed in botched robbery

Two unidentified women weep after leaving flowers outside of the Lane Bryant store at the Brookside shopping center in Tinley Park, Ill., Sunday. Jerry Lai, The Associated Press


Two unidentified women weep after leaving flowers outside of the Lane Bryant store at the Brookside shopping center in Tinley Park, Ill., Sunday. Jerry Lai, The Associated Press

By Michael Tarm

TINLEY PARK, Ill. – Authorities stepped up their hunt for a gunman Sunday as they released the names of five women killed inside a suburban Chicago clothing store during a robbery attempt gone awry.

Police were tightlipped on the status of their investigation and gave no indication they were any closer to finding the man – described as a stocky black man, about 5-foot-9, who was wearing a black winter coat, a knit cap and dark pants – suspected in Saturday’s brazen attack.

“This has been an extremely sensitive investigation,” said Police Chief Mike O’Connell, who asked community members to come forward with any clues.

The dead include the plus-size clothing store’s manager, a nurse and a high school social worker, along with two others.

They were identified Sunday 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.

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    The Will County Coroner said all five were shot to death.

    Tinley Park police would not confirm media reports Sunday that a sixth woman was shot and survived.

    The Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, citing unnamed sources, said in stories posted on their Web sites Sunday that the surviving woman was treated at St. James Hospital in Olympia Fields. The Sun-Times reported that the woman was released Sunday afternoon.

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

    Tinley Park Mayor Edward Zabrocki said Sunday he feared for the entire area and was stepping up police patrols.

    “We are concerned about the safety of Tinley Park, but also the entire region,” he said.

    Zabrocki ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on municipal buildings in the community for five days – one for each of the victims.

    Only one murder was reported in the growing suburb of nearly 60,000 between 1999 through 2006, according to annual reports compiled by Illinois State Police.

    “It was a real shock to all of us,” said Frank German, who has been the Tinley Park Village Clerk for 40 years. “We have a great community. We were all surprised; this is not a Tinley Park thing.”

    Lane Bryant’s parent company, Bensalem, Pa.-based Charming Shoppes Inc., said it was offering a $50,000 reward for information that could lead investigators to the gunman.

    Associated Press writers Charles Wilson, Sophia Tareen, Caryn Rousseau and Ashley M. Heher contributed to this report.

    A look at the five victims who died in Saturday’s shooting at the Lane Bryant store in Tinley Park, Ill.

    n Jennifer L. Bishop, 34, of South Bend, Ind.: Bishop was a nurse at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Ind. Nursing supervisor Nancy Pemberton called Bishop “an exceptional human being and a wonderful nurse and a wonderful mother.”

    n Carrie H. Chiuso, 33, of Frankfort, Ill.: Chiuso was a 1993 graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School, where she was a social worker.

    n Rhoda McFarland, 42, of Joliet, Ill.: McFarland’s best friend Sandra McGhee of Joliet said McFarland worked for two years as the Lane Bryant store manager. McGhee said McFarland was an ordained minister and worked closely with young girls at her church.

    n Sarah T. Szafranski, 22, of Oak Forest, Ill.: Szafranski’s family said in a statement that they are in shock and their emotions are raw. According to a Web site that appears to be her Facebook page, she was a 2007 graduate of Northern Illinois University and worked as a paralegal.

    n Connie R. Woolfolk, 37, of Flossmoor, Ill.: Woolfolk, a mother of two boys, worked as a real estate broker. “She was just a loving person who would help anybody,” her father Melvin Woolfolk said. “She was a lovely person.” THE ASSOCIATED PRESS