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KHALIL WHEELER-WEAVER UPDATE
23-year-old Khalil Weheeler-Weaver, a New Jersey serial killer, has been convicted on all counts, including murder, desecrating human remains, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, and aggravated arson. The Essex, New Jersey jury deliberated for just two hours last Thursday before convicting Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, who now faces a potential sentence of life plus 80 years in prison.
We covered Khalil in episode 2 of our show, so head back and listen to it to hear more about this horrible human being.
Ted Stephens, the acting Essex County Prosecutor said, “Wheeler-Weaver mistakenly believed that they [the victims] were anonymous people, people on the margins, whose disappearance and ultimately their death would not matter. This team assembled here today proved otherwise.”
Social media was meant to bring us together. It was meant to be the hammer to the social walls people put up around themselves.
Quite the opposite has happened.
As people grow divided in culture, religion, and politics, the gap has widened as social media has made it easy to stick to those who share your values.
Is that wrong? No. We do this in the real world every day. What is has done is make us less capable of listening to another’s opinion. An opinion that is just as valid as our own.
Social media was meant to bring us together, and instead, it’s tearing us apart.
When Facebook launched their pages and groups function, it was also meant to bring people with something in common together.
In the case of Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, a 19-year-old pregnant with her second child, a Facebook group called Help a Sister Out was her saving grace. Clarisa Figueroa, a mom offering baby clothes to Marlen, was her saving grace.
For anyone who has had children, hand-me-downs are a welcome site, even if they are hand-em-overs from other families.
Marlen Ochoa-Lopez saw Clarisa Figueroa’s offer as a blessing.
That blessing would turn into a nightmare.
It would become a nightmare for Marlen, her baby, her boyfriend, and her family and friends.
This is the case of the murder of Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, a 19-year-old mother who’s time was cut short in a vicious and brutal manner.
Just like when we covered Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, this case is new and the trial is ongoing. What that means is everything regarding the defendants is alleged, as no one has been found guilty yet. That being said, also like Khalil’s case, these defendants are as guilty as a toddler caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
Before we dive straight into this case, let’s take a look at where the crime took place: Southwest Chicago, Illinois. To get some information regarding this part of Chicago, I went to wikitravel, which seemed to be one of the only sites that would provide me with data regarding that section of the city.
The Southwest side of Chicago feels far off the path from the city. There isn’t a lot to see in this portion of the city, but the Southwest holds some interest as it’s home to the infamous Union Stock Yards as well as a few restaurants that are worth the trek.
The Union Stock Yards were part of the massive meatpacking industry, which developed alongside the innovation of the refrigerated railway car. Livestock would be brought to this rail hub of Chicago and stock would be processed and shipped around the country. At its peak, the Union Stock Yards processed about 82% of the meat consumed in the United States.
The stockyards played a huge part in the development of Chicago. It brought wealth, which also brought in some of the world’s first global companies. The yards also gave birth to the modern hedging industry needed to manage the risks in agricultural commodities trade, which established Chicago as a world center for finance.
Eventually, the innovation of interstate trucking and fast point to point shipping of meat allowed for livestock to be slaughtered where they were raised, rendering the stockyards unneeded.
This wasn’t a sad end, regardless of the jobs that were lost. The stench of manure and death was suffocating across the greater part of the city. The environmental degradation which was written about by Upton Sinclair in “The Jungle” was intense.
The south fork of Chicago River’s South Branch became known as Bubbly Creek for the methane and hydrogen sulfide gas, produced by entrails’ decomposition, bubbling through the grease, chemicals, blood, and guts.
But hey, this isn’t the only thing to see in Southwestern Chicago. This part of the city also has the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, the Capital Cigar Store Inc., National Archives & Records Administration, and the Polish Highlanders Alliance of North America. There is Marquette Park, the Marquette Park Golf Course, Sherman Park, and Stanley’s, the last surviving tavern along Chicago’s legendary Whisky Row.
Lets talk a little about crime in Southwest Chicago. Via wikitravel:
“As you would expect in such a large district of the city, crime levels vary throughout. The northern and western neighborhoods, while sometimes looking gritty, are pretty safein the daytime and not too bad at night. Use common sense around the Back of the Yards and Marquette part, as they are both transitional communities. Englewood and Auburn Gresham, on the other hand, are both neighborhoods notorious among Chicagoans for murders, random beatings, and what have you. Washington Heights can sometimes be as bad.”
In terms of crime data, I was only able to find Chicago data in general. Here are some of the numbers compared to the average in the United States:
• It has been given a crime index of 7 out of 100. It’s only safer than 7% of U.S. cities.
• The population of Chicago is around 2.7 million.
• Murder rate per 1,000: 0.21 vs. U.S. 0.05
• Rape rate per 1,000: 0.67 vs. U.S. 0.43
• Robbery rate per 1,000: 3.59 vs. U.S. 0.86
• Assault rate per 1,000: 5.66 vs. U.S. 2.47
So, not entirely safe. As the message says above, I’m sure it’s safe in some areas more so than others, just like where we live, however, when someone describes even those neighborhood as “pretty safe in the daytime and not too bad at night” I’m thinking I’m not going to take a stroll.
Now that we’ve hit on the crime, let’s talk a little about the real estate of Southwestern Chicago, Illinois:
• 3 bed/2 bath/1,152 sq ft/5,053 sq ft lot/2 car garage/brick home - $219,000
• 6 bed/2 bath/4,356 sq ft lot/Brick, two unit, sturdy/2 car garage - $48,900
For that second home, there is plywood on windows and it's just a shit show, horrible.
All right, let’s get into this case. After you hear about it, you are going to understand why I’m prolonging our discussion about it.
Many of our sources for this revolve around the Chicago Tribune and local news sources. I will make sure we put our sources in the show notes posted on our website truecrimelabpod.com.
Leading up to April 23, 2019, here’s a little information you should know:
Marlen Ochoa-Lopez was pregnant with her second child and joined an online Facebook group for mothers called Help a Sister Out. This is where she met the defendant/murderer/INSANE HUMAN BEING Clarisa Figueroa. A few weeks before she disappeared, she posted that she was in need of baby clothes for her son, due to be born in early May (1-2 months from now).
Figueroa wrote, “My girl has all brand new boy clothes her son never wore.” This was according to a screenshot that Marlen’s family provided.
Marlen responded, “Yes girl, that’s fine, thank you so much.”
Figueroa responded, “No problem girl. I know how it is she was lucky to have two baby showers so she just loves to spread the wealth I’m fine with the help inbox me for more info ok.”
So, this is not the first time Marlen had been to Figueroa’s house. Authorities said, “Apparently, Ms. Ochoa had bought other baby items from Clarisa in the past, so they knew each other.” My thought is the time between the first and second time Marlen was at Clarisa’s house, she was planning, scheming, etc. It was after the plan was put together that she reached out and offered Marlen a double stroller and baby clothes.
On the afternoon of April 23rd Marlen drove from her high school in Little Village to Clarisa Figueroa’s one-story brick home in the Scottsdale neighborhood. This was about 9 miles away. Police said both Figueroa’s, mother and daughter, confessed to strangling Ochoa-Lopez before the child was removed. We will get into more details of that night a little later on.
At around 6 p.m. on the same day, the Chicago Fire Department received a 911 call from the Figueroa home saying that a child had just been born. Paramedics arrived and noticed that the baby was obviously in distress and that the baby was basically blue.
As the paramedics started Pediatric life support, they radioed for another ambulance. The baby was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in critical condition.
Some of the paramedics stayed on the scene with the elder Figueroa, Clarisa, who had claimed to be the mother of the baby. So, she had the baby, it was in distress, and yet she didn’t want to be in the ambulance with her baby?
Paramedics asked if she had any cramps, bleeding, or dizziness and she said no. Of course she said no because it was all a lie.
She ended up being taken to the same hospital as a precaution. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a woman who’s just given birth, but I feel that it’s pretty obvious whether or not she did. Then again, if you’ve seen a picture of her … she’s a perfect resemblance of Roz from Monster’s Inc.
We can’t really blame the paramedics because, and I didn’t know this, they do not conduct physical examinations after childbirth if there is nothing suspicious that raised alarms. In this case, I think they looked at her and said “NOPE!” That’s a big “10-NOPE.” They abstained from their physical examination.
Rightfully, Marlen’s family did not understand why the doctors did not ask more questions when the baby was taken there. Her dad did not understand why the medical professionals did not notice.
The hospital declined to comment about this. Their reasoning?“…out of respect for patient privacy and in compliance with federal and state regulations.” I … cannot … for the life of me … understand who you are protecting here? The criminals? The baby?
The mother who cannot be there to say, “That child is MINE.” This is infuriating to me.
On April 24th, Marlen’s husband reported her missing (point of note: it would take nearly three weeks before police unraveled what happened).
In the following days, the baby was placed in the intensive care unit. I assume that means he was in the NICU (neonatal). The residents of the home on 77th Place, mother and daughter Figueroa and a man with the last name of Bobak set up a GoFundMe page for the baby … that was not theirs.
The mother, Clarisa, was listed as the organizer of the fundraising drive, which was hoping for $9,000.00 This page had a photo of a small baby hooked up to breathing tube and monitors. Having had a baby in the NICU, born seven weeks early, this is abhorrent and should be a crime in and of itself.
The campaign has been taken down and a rep from GoFundMe said, “This campaign was removed from the platform because it violated GoFundMe terms and conditions. All donors will be refunded.” To that, I say … no shit Sherlock.
Fast-forward to May 7th and detectives didn’t really begin to piece the case together until then. Until this point, Marlen was a missing persons case. They didn’t know much more than that. As far as anyone was concerned, Marlen was missing, and the Figueroa’s home birth was legitimate (still not sure HOW that’s possible, but it is what it is).
At this point Marlen has been missing for two weeks. A friend mentioned she had joined the group on Facebook that we mentioned earlier. The detectives learned Marlen went missing on the day she disappeared.
They are honing in on the actual crime here. While I act super frustrated with this case, you don’t know what you don’t know, right? Investigating a crime, or a missing persons case, takes time. It’s not an open and shut, 45 min. case. While they say the first 48 hours are vital, crazier things have happened however, after 2 weeks, without any reasoning for Marlen to leave, I’m sure while they had hope, they were preparing for the worst. The horrible part is, they couldn’t have prepared for anything NEAR what had happened.
Detectives took a trip to the Figueroa’s house and interviewed the daughter. Desiree Figueroa, 24, eventually told the detectives that her mother had just given birth to a baby. WELL, first she tells them her mother was in the hospital for problems with her legs. THEN she revealed her mother had just given birth.
Things aren’t adding up for law enforcement officials and so they decide to take a look around the neighborhood. A search revealed that Ochoa-Lopez’s car was parked not far away. The neighbors on the block said they saw the car around the neighborhood and noticed multiple parking tickets on it.
On that same day, detectives went over to Advocate Christ Medical Center to talk with momma-Figueroa, who denied that Ochoa-Lopez had shown up at her house on April 23. So, police subpoenaed hospital records and eventually learned that Figueroa’s baby … was not Figueroa’s baby.
Modern-day science is absolutely amazing. They obviously had DNA from Clarisa Figueroa. What they were able to do is extract DNA from Ochoa-Lopez’s toothbrush and hair brush. The authorities determine the baby was hers, and her family starts visiting the baby in the hospital … but where is Marlen? She is still missing.
On May 14th, Figueroa, her daughter, and Bobak are taken into custody. We just asked where, was, Marlen? That day, armed with a search warrant, the crime lab officers searched the Figueroa’s house, which I can only imagine was a shit show.
Detectives discovered bleach and cleaning solutions in the home, along with evidence of burned clothing and blood on the floors of the living room, bathroom, and a hallway. Brendan Deenihan, Deputy Chief of Detectives, said “They are finding remains of burned clothes, they are finding some blood indication on the living room carpet, some blood indication on the hallway, some blood indication on the bathroom floor.”
In side a garbage can in the backyard of the Figueroa’s house, police found Marlen’s body and the coaxial cable used to strangle her. Detectives also found remnants of burned clothes and the indication of blood throughout the home, as well as bleach and cleaning solution.
Can we just dissect this for a second? They killed a young girl that everyone would notice is gone. She has family that cares. She has a significant other. She’s pregnant. She’s still finishing high school. She has a TON of people she’s accountable to.
On May 15th, around 12:10 in the morning, The medical examiner got a call and was notified of the body found. At 6:15 in the evening, the ME’s office officially announced that the body belonged to Marlen Ochoa-Lopez and said she was strangled and her death was a result of homicide.
The next day, May 16th, Marlen’s father, Arnulfo Ochoa said, “We came to this country to give a good life for my daughter. We just want justice for what they did for my daughter.”
Arnulfo and the family of Marlen said they notified authorities about her interaction with the woman (Clarisa), much sooner than May 7th when law enforcement said they heard about it. Her husband tried to immediately report her missing to the police, but was told to come back in 72 hours, according to Jacobita Cortes, a pastor of a Chicago church that the family had asked for help.
The husband did do that AND the family hired a private investigator who helped find Ochoa-Lopez’s car near the Figueroa home.
The church did amazing work for the family. They plastered neighborhoods with fliers. Residents called the church to report they had seen Marlen enter the house where she was found dead. They said that one of the women who lived there, in her 40s, suddenly had a baby without ever being pregnant.
Marlen’s father said “The private detective went into that Facebook page and found all the information, and he gave it to the police. But even then, they took too long to get there.”
At a police conference that same day, the public found out that it was not just Marlen’s father who was being critical of law enforcement. The media pressed officials to explain why detectives could not figure out more quickly what happened to Ochoa-Lopez. Of course, I understand the outrage, however it’s extremely difficult to figure something out on the back end when you have very little information. Not only that, but although it’s easy for Russia to hack into Facebook, steal data, and rig an election (allegedly), apparently it’s extremely difficult for Law Enforcement to hop into someone’s account and see an exchange which would have helped them right away.
Instead, the officials said “Once they got the break on May 7th, then things started going quickly.” In addition, he said “There was nothing to point us in that direction in the beginning. Remember, this is real life. This isn’t ’48 Hours.’ It doesn’t work like that. It takes time.”
The deputy chief of detectives, Brendan Deenihan, said he understood “everyone looking back and playing armchair quarterback. It’s like all these red flags that happened on the 23rd of April. But these defendants also … were not that wise. I mean the body is in the garbage can on the premises with the murder weapon inside, and we were still able to get it that much later.
Chicago Policy Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a news conference Thursday, “Words really cannot express how disgusting and thoroughly disturbing these allegations are.
Because the Figueroa’s and Bobak were such horrid criminals, formal charges were brought against them on May 16th. We know the justice system, and one thing they are not is quick. So this is pretty insane.
Of course, we all want to know what happened to the baby, Yovanny Jadiel Lopez. Yovanny lived brain dead in the NICU, attached to the life-sustaining cords and tubes up until June 14th, just after 5 p.m.
Fast forward to June 26, Clarisa Figueroa and her daughter Desiree, plead not guilty to more than two dozen counts of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, dismembering a human body, and concealing a homicidal death.
I cannot, for the life of me, understand why they wouldn’t simply plead guilty. Perhaps they are hoping a deal will be struck if they testify against each other. Perhaps they are hoping to claim insanity. In either case, fuck them for making this go to trial and making the family relive everything.
Speaking of “them,” let’s talk a little bit about the ol’ fuck faces:
Clarisa Figueroa - Court records from Cook County show that the mother had two separate misdemeanor charges years ago, one for battery in 1998 and another for marijuana possession in 2008. Both of the cases were dropped.
Desiree Figueroa - Convicted this past January for misdemeanor theft and was sentenced to four months of court supervision and community service. She missed a court date on April 29, the same an arrest warrant was issued for her. She was also charged in 2013 with misdemeanor assault, but the case was dropped.
Peter Bobak - Clarisa’s boyfriend. Convictions for two misdemeanors - one fo public indecency in which he was sentenced in