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Friday
Nov042011

‘Person of Interest’ Questioned in Illinois Teen’s Murder

Comstock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- As hundreds of friends and family members poured into a suburban Chicago funeral home to say goodbye to 14-year-old Kelli O’Laughlin, police in a tiny Illinois suburb on Thursday announced they are questioning a “person of interest” in her murder.

“We have a person of interest in custody, and we’re working feverishly to bring this to a conclusion,” said Indian Head Park Police Chief Frank Alonzo at a brief press conference at which he took no questions.  "No charges have been filed.”

Police say the brutal killing of the high school freshman is the first murder ever in this tight-knit community of 3,700 people.  Kelli was discovered by her mother inside the family’s home last Thursday.  She had been stabbed to death with a kitchen knife.  Investigators believe she came home from school and walked in on a burglary.

Investigators with the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force have combed through more than 100 leads.  They are also searching for several rare coins -- including some from a Las Vegas casino -- believed stolen from the O’Laughlins' home.

The man police have in custody is reportedly on parole and thought to be connected to a recent string of burglaries in the region.  Sources close to the investigation say search dogs tracked the man’s scent to a highway rest stop near the O’Laughlin family’s home, where he may have hailed a taxi.

The latest developments in the case come as Kelli’s distraught family holds her wake and prepares for her funeral.  

On Wednesday, Kelli’s father, John O’Laughlin, released a statement on behalf of his family, saying, “We are truly overwhelmed and touched by the outpouring of support we have received from the community and all those who knew and loved Kelli.  We are so grateful to everyone who has offered their support and condolences at this difficult time.”

So many people are expected to attend Kelli’s funeral on Friday morning that community members are conducting a roadside vigil to help ease the overflow crowd.  They’re calling it “Join Hands and Hearts for Kelli,” and asking neighbors to line the mile-and-a-half route between the funeral home and the church, in a show of support for Kelli’s family.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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