Police: Human bones found in Forest Park may be homicide victim

By Jean Lotus, Staff Reporter

PHOTO: Google satellite image from 2017 shows the tarp-covered sedan parked in the 1000 block of Lathrop in Forest Park. (Courtesy Google Maps)

More than a week after unidentified human remains were found inside a covered vehicle parked behind a house in Forest Park, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office still has not identified the victim, or even released the victim’s gender.

An autopsy was performed on the remains that were discovered, Becky Schlikerman, CCME spokesperson, confirmed. An initial report was not immediately available.

“It’s possible that it is a homicide, and we are considering it a homicide,” said Forest Park Police Chief Thomas Aftanas on July 13. “It’s not normal when you find human remains in a closed container.”

Identifying the body may take up to a month, Aftanas said.

“We are not saying much about the investigation until we see if we can ID the body,” he said. “If we identify the victim, then we’ll be asking for the public’s help.”

The case is being investigated with the help of the West Suburban Major Crimes Task Force (WESTAF), Aftanas said.

WESTAF is a collaborative homicide task force made up of detectives and forensic officers from 22 different west Cook County municipalities.

On June 29, Forest Park residents discovered human bones and clothing in a trashcan locked inside the black sedan at their home. The car had been parked in the space long-term, always covered with a tarp.

The owner of the car had died, abandoning the car on the property, Aftanas said, and the residents were planning to have the car towed.

“The resident broke the car window to gain entry and observed a garbage can in the rear seat,” a statement from the Forest Park police read. “The resident removed the garbage can and discovered what appeared to be skeletal remains inside.”

The bones were human, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office. The medical examiner team tries to identify human remains using fingerprints, DNA analysis or dental or medical record comparisons, Schlikerman said.

Neighbors said they were shocked.

“I remember that car being there under the tarp for years,” said Forest Park resident Thomas Flanagan. “In the winter, there were cinderblocks on the tarp to keep it from blowing off.”

The evening of the discovery, about 15 officers were on the scene and canvassed the block talking to residents, Flanagan said. An officer showed Flanagan a photo of the vehicle.

“It was an older-model sedan, maybe an Oldsmobile” in really poor condition, Flanagan said.

The owner of the property declined to speak to a reporter when reached by phone.

Meanwhile, neighbors wonder how long the remains were on the block.

“It’s very, very strange,” said Flanagan. “There were so many nights I’ve been sitting and hanging out back there in my car, parked 10 feet away from this car. It’s so weird to think about, that there could have been human remains there the whole time.”