HARWOOD HEIGHTS, Ill. — Police say they plan to pursue additional charges against a man accused of beating a woman and choking her with a zip tie during a carjacking in Harwood Heights, Illinois, on Wednesday.
Court documents allege that 24-year-old Reese Miller attacked and strangled a 61-year-old woman while she was outside of her house in the 4400 block of North Natchez Avenue early Wednesday morning, leaving the victim on life support.
The victim, who has been identified as Ma Operio, died from her injuries on Sunday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
“They said when she was laying on the pavement she was already dead,” Operio’s mother, Maria Gimeno, said. “They revived her when they took her to the ER and then she was brain dead.”
Gimeno says her daughter was a sweet and nurturing woman who helped take care of her grandson and her elderly neighbor.
“She was a very happy person, she quit her job to take care of her grandson,” Gimeno said.
According to Gimeno, her daughter had just returned home from vacation in Texas and was outside cleaning her car when she was attacked.
“The trunk on my daughter’s car was open. He went through the back,” Gimeno said.
According to a bond proffer from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, a neighbor who witnessed the attack told police that he had seen Operio lying face up in the road in front of her blue Toyota as he was preparing to leave for work around 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday. The witness told officers that he had seen a person in a black hoodie, who appeared to be on top of Operio, choking her while she struggled. According to the witness, the man then got inside Operio’s Toyota and drove off along North Natchez Avenue with the trunk of the car still open.
The court documents say the neighbor called 911 and when officers arrived on the scene, they found Operio lying face down in the street with blood around her head and a zip tie tightened around her throat. When officers cut the zip tie from her neck, her face was purple.
The bond proffer states that Miller was later caught in the stolen vehicle by Crete police officers just after 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning. At the time Miller was arrested, he was wearing the same clothes described by a witness at the scene and police say he had scrapes on his hands and knees his jeans had a spot of blood on them.
Court documents say the stolen vehicle was towed to the Harwood Heights Police Station and inside officers then found a knife and a handwritten note that said: “I’m deeply sorry for hurting anyone at the moment, it seemed to be the only choice. I didn’t want to hurt people. It was never something I ever thought possible until the realization of reality hit me.”
Miller was also seen in surveillance video from the 6400 block of West Sunnyside Avenue walking toward the victim’s home, wearing the same clothing that he was arrested in, only eight minutes prior to the attack, according to the documents.
The documents state that after Miller was read his Miranda warnings, he admitted to taking the victim’s car after he pulled her from the vehicle and placed the zip tie around her neck. Miller also admitted to writing the note found inside the vehicle and told officers that the scrapes on his hands and knees happened during the struggle when he scrapped them against the concrete.
According to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Miller admitted that the knife found inside the vehicle was his and told officers that he had moved the victim away from the vehicle so he would not run her over when driving off. Miller also admitted that he was the man seen in surveillance video prior to the attack.
Miller has been charged with First Degree Murder and Aggravated Vehicular Hijacking. Following Operio’s death on Sunday, Harwood Heights police say they plan on pursuing additional charges against the suspect.
Operio’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses.