Victim: Maria Santiago

A drunk illegal alien beat and strangled Maria Santiago, carried her body down three flights of stairs, and set her ablaze with charcoal in the building's garage

Perpetrator: Pedro Cruz

Crime Description:


CHICAGO (CBS) — An autopsy is scheduled for Friday for a 54-year-old woman, whose burning body was found in a garage on the northwest edge of the Uptown neighborhood.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports, the body of Maria Santiago was found when firefighters were called to a garage fire just after 10 a.m. Thursday behind the building at 5039 N. Clark St.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports


Santiago’s body was burning inside. It turned out someone had thrown charcoal on her and set her on fire, perhaps to cover up a murder.

The autopsy will be conducted Friday morning at the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. Until then, police have classified the case as a death investigation.

The victim’s sister, Ibes Santiago, described the scene.

“Blood all over, blood going down. She was burning over there,” she said.

Santiago’s family says she had been in a third-floor apartment late Wednesday visiting neighbors.

Relatives say the men gave Santiago a television and that she helped them set it up, then left with them.

Santiago’s best friend, Wendy Pitre, says she was always afraid of the dark gangway leading from the alley near the garage to her apartment building. Just the day before the murder, she said Santiago had a premonition about being attacked.

“She goes, a man’s going to grab me in that darkness. He’s going to rape me, and then he’s going to burn me in that garage,” she said.

Police searched trash bins, and investigators sealed the third floor apartment Santiago visited — for evidence. Santiago’s van was still parked nearby, the door partly open.

Family and friends say Santiago was a generous woman living with her mother and sister, and caring for them. They can’t imagine who could do something like this.

The building is located along the bustling Andersonville business strip, nestled among boutique stores and other upscale businesses. The Wooden Spoon kitchenware shop and the Sacred Rose antique shop are located just to the north, and the popular nightspot T’s Bar and Restaurant is just to the south across Winnemac Avenue.