Mona Starr says her phone rang the morning of November 22, 2020.
On the line was an official with the Village of Matteson, informing her that her house was on fire.
“I thought maybe this is some sort of joke,” Starr said. “This can’t be real.”
Starr bought the five-bedroom property just two months earlier. It needed work but she believed that when done it could be a “dream home” for her family.
But now a fire had reduced parts of it to ash.
“All of our belongings – our pictures, our furniture [were destroyed],” she said.
Starr suspected the fire was an accident, possibly caused by one of several contractors who were working on the home.
But Matteson police quickly determined it was arson, though at first they had no suspects or leads.
That changed after several of Starr’s neighbors shared video from their residential security cameras. Through the footage, investigators identified a luxury vehicle, cruising the streets near Starr’s home, right before the fire.
That vehicle led them to a man Starr had recently dated. Police believe he and an accomplice intentionally set the fire on the first and second floors of the home.
Now, Cedrick Taylor faces two counts of felony arson. He pleaded not guilty and his case is still pending. He declined to comment for this story.
The case underscores the growing importance of cameras in crime fighting. And why in Chicago, for example, the Lightfoot Administration recently launched a program to encourage residents and businesses to buy new security cameras and register those devices with police.
“When we have that footage, that’s even better than an eyewitness,” says Kristen Ziman, a law enforcement expert and former Aurora Police chief.