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Person of interest in custody in fatal stabbing of Maryland grad student in the Loop

Police say the same man attacked two other women earlier this month, approaching them from behind and hitting them with an object. 

Anat Kimchi
Anat Kimchi
University of Maryland

A person of interest has been taken into custody in the fatal stabbing of a Maryland grad student in the Loop over the weekend.

Chicago police said the person was being questioned by detectives Thursday evening but did not release further details.

Earlier Thursday, police released a community alert describing the attacker that stabbed Anat Kimchi, 31, around 4 p.m. Saturday in the 400 block of South Wacker Drive. She was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Kimchi had been working on her doctorate in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland. Her family said she was in Chicago visiting friends.

The alert described the attacker as in his 30s and possibly homeless. Police said he was Black, between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-11 and had dreadlocks or was wearing a bandana that looked like dreadlocks.

Police say the same man attacked two other women earlier this month, approaching them from behind and hitting them with an object.

  • On June 10, the man struck a 25-year-old woman in the head from behind as she walked on a sidewalk in the 500 block of South Franklin Street around 9:30 p.m. The woman was hospitalized in fair condition.
  • Around 7:10 p.m. June 13, he struck a 50-year-old woman with a “long heavy object” as she walked in the first block of East Ida B. Wells Drive. The woman dropped her personal items and the man took them, then hit her two more times before he fled, police said. The woman was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital with lacerations to the head.

Earlier this week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said police knew who stabbed Kimchi and were “scouring the various homeless encampments downtown.”

“We know who he is. We’ve got good film of him. We believe he’s a homeless individual,” Lightfoot said. “It’s awful. No question about it.”

But at a later news conference, Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan stopped short of saying investigators know who the attacker is. “We are seeking the identity and the eventual arrest of the person who stabbed that female,” he said.

He declined to comment further, other than to say investigators have video of the attack and a witness who is cooperating.

Chicago police mark potential evidence while investigating the fatal stabbing of a 31-year-old woman Saturday in the Loop’s 400 block of South Wacker Drive.
Chicago police work the scene where a 31-year-old woman was fatally stabbed in the 400 block of South Wacker Dr. in The Loop neighborhood, Saturday, June 19, 2021.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Jim Wales, president of the community group South Loop Neighbors, questioned why police took nearly a week to release a description of the attacker. His community group held a meeting this week about a spike in violent crime in the neighborhood.

“The issue is that, in the last weeks, there have been two murders and a shooting on Dearborn. People are very concerned,” he said. “It’s critical the information has to be relayed to the public.”

On June 12, a 22-year-old man was shot dead as he sat in a parked car in the 600 block of South Wells Street, police said. Dearl Butler was shot several times by someone in a passing car and died at Stroger Hospital.

The Central Police District, which covers the Loop and South Loop, has seen three murders so far this year, according to police statistics, one less than during the same time last year. However, shootings have more than doubled over last year in the district.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, whose 25th Ward includes where Kimchi was attacked and killed, expressed concern about the delay in installing a new commander in the district.

“We’re of course extremely concerned. And if there’s a pattern, and this is something we’ve discussed in three public safety meetings, [it is] important the investigation gets to the bottom of it,” Sigcho-Lopez said.

On Wednesday, police announced that Lt. Patricia O. Zuber was promoted to commander of the District after Jacob Alderden was demoted from the position earlier in June.

“These changes of course are a concern for how these things took so long: The urgency of the investigation, making sure the investigation happens expediently. It’s critical for residents,” Sigcho-Lopez said.