The decades-old mystery of a missing Chicago girl, Illinois pols’ Boeing ties and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Donald Moroney, nephew of Mary Agnes Moroney who’s been missing since May 15, 1930, holds up a Life magazine article about his missing aunt.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 26 degrees. Tonight will be clear with a low near 22. Tomorrow will be partly cloudy with a high near 43. And Sunday will be partly sunny with a high near 47.

Top story

Whatever happened to Mary Agnes Moroney? DNA tests appear to solve 1930s mystery of missing Chicago girl

A Chicago mystery dating back to the Great Depression may have finally been solved.

Whatever happened to Mary Agnes Moroney, the 2-year-old reportedly snatched away from her South Side family by a woman using the name Julia Otis on May 15, 1930? The case made national headlines in the 1930s and 1950s. But its solution eluded investigators — and Chicago newspaper reporters — for nearly a century. Mary Agnes’ nephew, 55-year-old Don Moroney of Downstate Flanagan, has been searching for it since he was in high school.

Moroney is now convinced his aunt has been found. He believes Mary Agnes lived her life as Jeanette Burchard, who was raised as an only child, married twice, had three children and spent more than 50 years as a nurse. She died about 20 years ago in Florida at the age of 75.

Also convinced is Burchard’s daughter, Terri Arnold of Florida, who has suddenly found herself entangled in a historic Chicago cold case. Arnold said she was contacted in September by a Cook County detective, who had questions about Arnold’s late mother and asked if Arnold would be willing to take a DNA test. She told the Chicago Sun-Times this week that she’s since learned “my family is completely different from what I was always led to believe.” And she said she’s “very confident” her mother was Mary Agnes. Arnold said her mother loved her pets, opera and the Miami Dolphins. Her life apparently began in Chicago. But most importantly, Arnold said, “she was the world’s greatest mom.”

“We adored my mother,” Arnold said.

A granddaughter of Burchard, Lori Hart, acknowledged the pain that Mary Agnes’ disappearance must have caused the Moroneys. But she told the Sun-Times she was still “blessed” to have had Burchard as her grandmother.

“Any time I needed her she was there,” Hart said.

Moroney, Arnold and Hart believe Burchard was Mary Agnes because of the work of Cook County Sheriff’s Det. Jose Rodriguez. He was assigned last June to investigate Mary Agnes’ disappearance as part of Sheriff Tom Dart’s Missing Persons Project.

Rodriguez and Cmdr. Jason Moran said commercial DNA testing revealed a genetic association between Arnold and members of Don Moroney’s family suggesting they were all cousins. That left Arnold trying to make sense of a new family history. But it also offered closure to the Moroney family, which has been at the center of the case for 93 years. Mary Agnes’ mother, Katherine, was haunted by the loss of her daughter and fell into a deep depression. Katherine died in 1962, at the age of 49.

Mary Agnes’ father, Michael, died in 1957 when he was 58. His final words were said to be, “they never found my baby girl.”

Don Moroney said the family had always hoped, whatever happened to his aunt, “that she led a good life and she was taken care of.”

“And she was,” Moroney said.

Jon Seidel has more on the attempts to solve the mystery of Mary Agnes Moroney.

More news you need

Elections 2023

Crime, jobs, schools and pollution top voters’ list as important issues in the 10th Ward on the Southeast Side, say the five candidates who want to succeed Susan Sadlowski Garza, who isn’t seeking re-election after two terms.

Yessenia Carreón, Peter Chico, Ana Guajardo, Óscar Sanchez and Jessica Venegas are among the candidates running in the competitive race for Garza’s seat.

Our Brett Chase has more on the candidates fighting to rep the 10th Ward in City Council.

With 11 candidates in all, the race for Ald. Leslie Hairston’s 5th Ward seat — open for the first time in 24 years — is one of the most crowded on the Feb. 28 ballot.

“Tina” Hone, Wallace Good, Jocelyn Hare, Desmon Yancy, Gabriel Piemonte, Renita Ward, Kris Levy, Joshua Gray, Marlene Fisher, Robert Palmer and “Dee” Perkins will all face off on Feb. 28. The candidates vary in their approaches to such issues as public safety and affordable housing, but nearly all of them agree on one thing — the ward’s next alderperson should be more accessible to and transparent with residents.

Our Mohammad Samra has more on the crowded battle.

A bright one

Bridgeport artist ZorZorZor’s South Loop alley mural won her a distant fan and a paid commission

There’s something about painting a mural in alleys, says the 32-year-old Bridgeport artist who goes by ZorZorZor.

They’re usually not as well-traversed as a regular street. And they’re dimly lit, gritty. Which creates a different kind of vibe that ZorZorZor describes as “more real, more genuine.” Besides, she likes that, because alleys aren’t usually destination points, spotting a mural in one often is a cause of surprise and delight.

Also, sometimes they last longer in alleys.

Like with a mural that, even though it was completed in 2016, is still there on a wall in an alley off Harrison Street between Michigan and Wabash avenues and still looks pretty good. It features two characters in traditional “highlander” Polish dress, a nod to her family’s roots.

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The Bridgeport artist who goes by ZorZorZor painted this mural in an alley off Harrison Street between Michigan and Wabash avenues.

Robert Herguth/Sun-Times

ZorZorZor says the title of the piece translates to: “Highlander, do you not regret?” — “or, as I always heard it, ‘Highlander, aren’t you sad?’ ”

Both of her parents came from a mountainous region of Poland, arriving in the United States in the 1970s and raising her in Clearing, a neighborhood near Midway Airport.

She recently recreated part of the alley mural on canvas for a woman in California who wanted to put it on the wall of her home. The woman apparently spotted the mural in a magazine, liked it and tracked her down, but ZorZorZor says it’s still “a bit of a mystery to me” how it came together.

“That was always my drive, and it still is — having someone finding me naturally, out of nowhere,” the artist says.

We’ve got more with ZorZorZor and her work here.

Want more public art stories? Check out our other newsletters and sign up for Murals & Mosaics — sent every Friday to your inbox.

From the press box

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Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: If the Bears leave, what do you think the city should do with Soldier Field? Here’s what some of you said...

“Renovate and turn it into an attraction i.e., Soldier Field Arts Museum to preserve the history and display some of the activities that have been performed there.” — Erica Scott

“Turn it and the surrounding parking lots into a centralized event or festival space like what Milwaukee has for Summerfest. Use that for music festivals rather than tying up neighborhood parks.” — Matt Bear

“Let high schools play there.” — Mark Curran

“Remove the spacecraft that was added and return it to its landmark status. It’s supposed to honor those killed in WWI. It now looks like a clown show.” — Scott Kalina

“Allow Chicago State University to play their football games there when they start their program.” — Philip G. Smith Jr.

“Downsize the number of seats, widen the field, and generally make it a fantastic soccer stadium for the Chicago Fire and the Chicago Red Stars.” — Rey Phillips

“Bring in a new team to call soldier field home. The Chicago Chargers has a nice ring to it— LA doesn’t want them anyway. Make the Bears feel the sting of leaving. Also, the Niners made a similar suburban move in 2014 that most fans have come to regret.” — Michael Charters

“The stadium can be used for a UFO landing pad.” — Tracie Ellis

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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