TINLEY PARK, Ill. (CBS) — After sitting vacant for more than five years, the Lane Bryant store where five women were slain in Tinley Park has been replaced by a T.J. Maxx, which welcomed its first customers on Thursday.
CBS 2’s Susanna song reports the new store opened to mixed emotions from customers and local residents.
Shoppers said the new store can’t erase the painful memories, but it is a way for the community to move forward.
On Feb. 2, 2008, a man walked into the Lane Bryant at the Brookside Marketplace Mall, took the store manager, an employee, and four customers to the back, and shot them all. Five women – Rhoda McFarland, Connie Woolfolk, Sarah Szafranski, Carrie Hudek Chiuso, and Jennifer Bishop – were killed. The sixth victim survived.
The gunman escaped, and the case has yet to be solved.
Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki was on hand Thursday morning for a bittersweet ribbon cutting of the T.J. Maxx which has replaced the Lane Bryant store.
After observing a moment of silence to honor the victims, customers entered the store for the first time in nearly six years.
“It feels sad,” Kathy Rogge said. “I feel sad for the families, and I understand that it would be difficult for them to be here, or come here.”
Many former Lane Bryant customers returned to visit the T.J. Maxx that replaced the old store.
“I think it’s a good thing that it’s changing what happened in the past, and they’re moving forward, and it’s showing the progress of the community,” Lisa Leverett said.
In honor of the victims, T.J. Maxx donated $10,000 to Together We Hope, a Tinley Park charity that works with the homeless.
Kathy Straniero, the group’s executive director, said, “We’re so excited to be able to have this extra money to help the clients. In the winter, we keep children warm, we provide food for families; about 80 families per day.”
Zabrocki, who was in office at the time of the slayings, said he’ll never forget, but it’s time to move on.
“This way you have a viable business contributing to the community; and sales tax, real estate tax, which goes to school district, etc., that kind of thing. So it’s a positive from that standpoint.”
Zabrocki said bulldozing the building would have been a financial burden on the developer. He said he didn’t hear any objections from the victims’ families.
T.J. Maxx issued a statement that says: “We certainly understand the many sensitivities regarding this location and we respectfully look forward to supporting the community as a good neighbor.”