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On May 29, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office filed first degree murder charges against Jimmy Dunlap, a 43-year-old Chicago man, in connection with the 1992 murder of Deeondra Dawson, an Evanston resident who was 25 years old at the time, said Commander Jay Parrott of the Evanston Police Department.

On April 23, 1992, Evanston police responded to a call that a woman was found deceased in an apartment at 634 Sherman Ave. in Evanston. Police officers observed Ms. Dawson lying face down in a pool of blood on the dining room floor. A steak knife, wrapped in a sheet, was in the room, said a proffer filed by the State’s Attorney of Cook County on May 30, 2013, with the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

The initial investigation revealed that Ms. Dawson’s four-year-old-son was in the apartment when the murder occurred in 1992. According to proffer, the child said a man had come to the apartment at about 10 p.m. on April 22. At about 3 a.m., the child heard wrestling in the dining room and went to see what was going on. The child saw the man hitting his mother, and  he attempted to help his mother by kicking the man. The man put his hands over the child’s mouth and told him to go back to bed. The child, who was not hurt, found his mother dead the next morning.

An autopsy revealed that Ms. Dawson died of multiple stab wounds. The medical examiner reported approximately 34 stab wounds and 47 incised wounds, said the proffer.  As part of the initial investigation, multiple DNA swabs were collected.

The homicide had gone unsolved since 1992. As part of the police department’s ongoing practice, the cold case was assigned to detectives to reanalyze the evidence, taking into account new technologies,  said Commander Parrott. After their investigation, they re-submitted evidence that was recovered in 1992 for further DNA analysis. Results of initial lab work identified Mr. Dunlap, who was on parole on a narcotics related offense, as a possible suspect, said the Commander. With the assistance of the Illinois Department of Corrections, Evanston detectives located and interviewed Mr. Dunlap, said the Commander.

During the interview, Mr. Dunlap said he knew Ms. Dawson, but that he had never had a dating relationship with her or been alone with her, according to the State’s Attorney’s proffer. Mr. Dunlap voluntarily gave a confirmatory DNA swab to compare with evidence collected in the initial investigation. 

The Illinois State Crime Lab positively linked Mr. Dunlap to Ms. Dawson, said the Commander.  The State’s Attorney’s proffer says, “The DNA examination confirmed that the semen extracted from the vaginal swab from Deeondra [Dawson] matches Defendant.” The proffer also says that a “YSTR testing” of a swab from the knife identified “a mixture of two males.” The “major Male DNA Haplotype matches the haplotype of Defendant,” the proffer says.

Late last month Evanston police detectives interviewed Mr. Dunlap again. He “reiterated that he was never in the victim’s apartment and never had sex with the victim,” says the State’s Attorney’s proffer.

A bond hearing was held on May 30 at the Skokie Courthouse and bond was set at $750,000, said Commander Parrott. He added that Evanston police worked with Cook County State’s Attorneys and Investigators, the Illinois Department of Corrections – Parole Intelligence Unit, the Illinois State Police Crime Laboratory – Chicago and Joliet.

He said they were able to solve this case using evidence gathered at the scene in 1992. What made the difference, he said, were major advances in DNA technology and the fact that the suspect’s DNA had been entered into the data system when he was charged with a felony after the 1992 homicide investigation. 

“We don’t forget about these victims,” said Commander Parrott. “It’s important that the citizens of Evanston know just because a case has gone cold, it doesn’t mean the case is over. On our end, there’s a lot of internal effort we put forth in working with other agencies to try to solve these cases.”

“That’s the message we want to get out. We don’t forget,” said Police Chief Richard Eddington. “We have a responsibility to the victims and their families that we take very seriously. We continue to apply resources based on the solvability factor. As the Commander pointed out, those solvability factors change over time based on new technology and based on database submissions. Sometimes it’s an excruciating, prodding process, but we don’t forget the victims. We don’t forget the families.”

Commander Parrot said Ms. Dawson’s family was pleased with the outcome, but it does not bring her back. “It brings closure,” he said.

The public is reminded that neither a complaint nor an indictment is evidence of guilt and that all defendants in a criminal case are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...