The Chicago Police Department on Thursday offered the largest reward in the city’s history -- $150,000 -- for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a man suspected of killing two strangers 36 hours apart last month.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said investigators will not stop until they have the killer of Douglass Watts, 73, and Eliyahu Moscowitz, 24, in custody. The cash reward, which jumped from $23,000 to the current amount, was raised entirely by citizens and community organizations.
The killings took place in the Rogers Park neighborhood, a normally low-crime area that is home to Loyola University’s Chicago campus.
“The Rogers Park community, along with the entire city of Chicago, was rocked by the senseless murders that took place here just over five weeks ago,” Johnson said during a news conference. “We are using every resource at our disposal to find the individual responsible. These were heinous actions, and we will find that person who committed these actions in our community.”
Watts was killed by a masked man on the morning of Sept. 30 as he walked his dogs outside his home in the 1400 block of West Sherwin Avenue, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The following night, Moscowitz was playing Pokemon Go alone on the nearby Loyola Park’s lakefront path when someone walked up and shot him point-blank in the head.
The men died in the same manner -- gunshot wounds to the head -- just a few blocks apart, police officials said. Ballistics testing showed that shell casings found at both scenes came from the same gun, the Sun-Times reported.
CBS Chicago initially reported that investigators believed Watts was killed during a robbery, but they later determined that nothing was stolen from him. Neighbors were stunned by his slaying.
“We’re devastated,” Rogers Park resident Bruno Mondello told the news station. “There’s no words that I can even convey for something like this.”
Police officials have also posited that the shootings could be hate crimes. Watts was gay and Moscowitz was an Orthodox Jew. According to the Times of Israel, Moscowitz worked as a mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, in a supermarket in nearby Evanston.
Moscowitz’s body was found by a pastor of a Chicago-area church, who the Jewish newspaper reported stayed with him until help arrived.
“He is laying there with the rain coming down, and if it was my son or my relative, I would just want someone to stand with them during this time,” Pastor John Elleson told the newspaper. “I just find my heart breaking with the gentleman, is all.”
Those who knew Moscowitz described him as a kind man who always had a smile for his customers, according to the paper. He was also active in the community of Pokemon Go enthusiasts, who held a candlelight vigil near the site of his killing.
Moscowitz was killed on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, which celebrates the conclusion and restarting of the annual cycle of public Torah readings.
Johnson said Thursday that it was still too early to say for sure what the killer’s motive might be.
“My police acumen would just say to me, unless, God forbid that any more crimes of this nature are committed, but until we bring that individual in, we may not know that motive,” Johnson said.
Officials released footage after the slayings that showed a suspect, dressed in black and wearing a ski mask over his face, running away from the scene of Watts’ death. The man had a distinctive run, his toes pointed outward as he fled.
Johnson said detectives have pored over hours of video, knocking on doors and pursuing all leads they’ve received in the homicides. He credited the community with providing an enormous amount of input about the crimes.
“The fact that we’ve received over 430 independent leads to support our ongoing investigation just goes to show how any investigative case must be built upon a strong connection with the community,” Johnson said. “However -- and I want to stress that -- however, we are still asking for more help.”
The chief said officials hoped that the large reward would encourage anyone with direct contact with or knowledge of the suspect to come forward.
“Someone out there listening or watching right now knows who this person is, whether it be an acquaintance, a friend, a loved one or a relative,” Johnson said.
The chief said people often are hesitant to come forward out of a desire not to get involved, out of fear or out of a reluctance to speak out against a friend or family member.
“But you’re not helping when you do that,” Johnson said. “These types of crimes are heinous, and it’s unacceptable.”
Watch Thursday’s news conference below.
Detectives do not know where the suspect is, but they do not believe he has left the city. They believe he is from the Rogers Park community because he traveled on foot, the Sun-Times reported.
“An honest answer is we don’t know where he is right now,” Johnson said Thursday. “He’s obviously laying low right now. He knows there’s a lot of pressure and he knows we are looking for him. So that’s not unnatural for them to kind of stop what they are doing at this time. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s moved out of Chicago or out of state.”
Anyone with information on the slayings is asked to call Area North detectives at 312-744-8261. Anonymous tips can be submitted at CPDtip.com.