Wilteeah Jones had reason to celebrate Wednesday — it was her grandmother's 75th birthday, and she and her boyfriend, Malik Bingham, were expecting their first child next month.
The couple joined in the party, eating pizza and the birthday cake Jones brought, before the two quietly disappeared from the family bungalow in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood on Chicago's South Side.
It wasn't until early Thursday morning when two police detectives showed up at the front door that Jones' mother, Valerie Weaver, learned that her daughter and Bingham, both 20, had been gunned down about 3 miles away in the Chatham neighborhood. Their unborn baby died as well.
"It hurts so bad because I never got a chance to meet Mileah," Weaver said of the baby, a girl whom the couple had already named. "You know, for somebody to do a horrific crime like that they have no morals, principles about themselves. But I know that God gonna handle them. I know He's gonna handle them. I know He is."
Bingham, identified by police as a documented gang member, and Jones were among seven victims of homicide in Chicago on Wednesday alone, making it the deadliest day in Chicago so far this year and putting the start of 2017 on par with last year, when the city recorded the most killings in two decades.
Through Wednesday, the Police Department counted 91 homicides, just two less than the year-earlier period. But Tribune data — which include expressway killings and fatal shootings by police as well as those ruled justified by police — put homicides at 99, up from 97.
Even by the department's own numbers, shooting incidents have risen to 379 through Wednesday, up slightly from 365 a year earlier.
The violent start to the year comes after a 2016 that brought Chicago unflattering attention — more than 760 slayings and 4,300 people shot last year, huge increases over 487 homicides and about 3,000 shooting victims in 2015.
President Donald Trump, who has regularly brought up Chicago's rampant violence, made a point of the seven slayings in a tweet Thursday.
"Seven people shot and killed yesterday in Chicago. What is going on there - totally out of control. Chicago needs help!" he wrote.
The seven slayings marked Chicago's single deadliest day since Christmas Day. Most of the shootings took place on the South Side, in neighborhoods such as Brainerd, West Pullman and Bronzeville and the Altgeld Gardens housing complex.
Among the victims was a 60-year-old grandfather who was killed early Wednesday outside his Little Village home on the Southwest Side as he prepared to go to work at his die-casting job.
Jones and Bingham were shot about 8:15 p.m. in the 7600 block of South Champlain Avenue. Bingham had been shot in the neck while sitting in the driver's seat of a parked car, while Jones was close by on a sidewalk with wounds to the abdomen and side, police said. Both were pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital.
Anthony Guglielmi, the chief police spokesman, said investigators believe both victims were targeted, possibly because of a conflict that Bingham was involved in. Police found a gun hidden in the car, Guglielmi said. No arrests have been made.
Guglielmi said Bingham was a documented gang member who had made the department's strategic subject list — a list of about 1,400 people considered most likely to shoot someone or become a victim of violence. It is compiled through a computerized algorithm and includes many factors, including individuals' criminal history, especially any weapons offenses or crimes of violence; their age at their first arrest; whether the nature of their arrests escalated over the years; if they had been the intended targets of shootings or the victims of violence; and if people they've been arrested with had been shot.
Bingham scored 370 out of 500, according to Guglielmi.
Bingham had arrests for gun possession and resisting arrest, but no convictions as an adult, according to court records. He was out on bond on a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession from last month, court records showed.
Weaver, Jones' mother, said her daughter and Bingham suddenly left the longtime family home in the middle of the gathering Wednesday evening without saying a word, but she didn't think anything of it at first.
But as the hours passed, Weaver grew worried. She feared the worst when detectives showed up about 2 a.m., she said.
"I knew it. I knew it. I knew it. I knew something had happened," she said in a somber tone Thursday afternoon outside the family home.
Mileah would have been her first grandchild.
Donnie Weaver, Wilteeah Jones' uncle, said that at eight months pregnant, "she was big enough to give birth any day."
It marked the second family tragedy since last year when Donnie Weaver lost a daughter from a seizure.
"I couldn't imagine this in my wildest dreams," Donnie Weaver said. "Our family is devastated."
Jose Correa, who was fatally shot outside his Little Village home in the 2700 block of South Central Park Avenue, usually left for work around 4 a.m. Wednesday, but his body wasn't discovered until about 3 1/2 hours later when a neighbor saw the garage door open and called Correa's wife, Catalina.
She said she noticed her husband's truck was still there and found him bleeding on the garage floor. Her son called 911, but Correa had no pulse.
"He did no harm to anybody," she said hours later in front of her two-story brick home. "He didn't deserve to die this way."
Her husband was shot in the back, neck and mouth, police said. He was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital at 7:45 a.m.
This marks the second violent death in the family in seven years. She lost her son, Juan Torres, to gun violence just half a mile away. Torres also was taken to Mount Sinai after he was shot.
"Just to go to the same hospital where my father passed was really hard," said Torres' son, Juan Torres Jr., who is 17.
"She saw him there lying on the floor, and it was just heartbreaking," he said of his grandmother.
Correa had worked at Callen Manufacturing, a die-casting company in suburban Northlake, since moving here from Mexico 40 years ago, his family said.
His wife recalled the moment she said she fell in love with her future husband.
"He was playing soccer with friends, and when he kicked the ball, his shoe flew off,'' she said. "When the shoe fell off, he smiled, and I smiled."
The two were married in a civil ceremony in Mexico City 40 years ago. Last September, Correa had proposed a church wedding at St. Agnes of Bohemia, across the street from the family home.
"He took care of his family," said Catalina, crying. "For 40 years, he took care of his family.''
Date Posted: Saturday, February 25th, 2017 , Total Page Views: 2405
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