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Man held on $3M bail after murdered woman’s blood found on jacket, SUV

Susan Torres’ blood and Malik Landers’ DNA, were found on the jacket Landers was wearing when he was arrested after getting into his girlfriend’s silver Toyota RAV4 Monday, prosectors said. The SUV also allegedly had traces of Torres’ blood inside.

The Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
The Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
Sun-Times file

A Cook County judge ordered a man held on $3 million bail Friday after prosecutors said DNA tests revealed the blood of a murdered woman was found on his jacket and an SUV he had access to.

Traces of 29-year-old Susan Torres’ blood and Malik Landers’ own DNA were found on the dark colored winter jacket Landers was wearing when he was arrested after getting into his girlfriend’s silver Toyota RAV4 Monday, according to Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy.

The SUV had a strong odor of cleaning products and traces of Torres’ blood were also found in several locations inside the vehicle, Murphy said.

Torres was discovered shot to death around 9 a.m. Saturday in an alley behind the 1000 block of North Hamlin Avenue, Murphy said.

Landers was seen in surveillance footage buying gas for the SUV the morning of the murder, Murphy said.

Another surveillance camera recorded an SUV that matched Landers’ girlfriend’s vehicle driving into the Humboldt Park alley around the same time a Chicago police ShotSpotter device a block away detected a single gunshot, Murphy said.

The surveillance footage also allegedly showed the SUV pause in the alley where Torres’ body was found before it drove away.

And records show that 23-year-old Landers’ cellphone was used in the “geographic area” of where Torres’ body was found around the time the murder, Murphy said.

But Murphy also told Judge Barbara Dawkins, “We don’t have a motive or a connection to this victim.”

After police released a description of the SUV, a tipster led investigators to Landers’ girlfriend’s RAV4 in Oak Park, Murphy said.

When officers approached Landers on Monday, he was wearing a ballistic vest and had a 9-mm handgun in his pocket, Murphy said. A .357 revolver was also found inside his home, but neither weapon matched a bullet recovered from Torres’ body and Landers has a valid concealed-carry license and FOID card, Murphy said.

DNA testing results of the blood found on the jacket and inside the SUV were not available Thursday when Landers first appeared in court for first-degree murder.

At the time, prosecutors told Dawkins the results would be available Friday, so she ordered Landers held on $750,000.

On Friday, Murphy asked Dawkins to order Landers held without bail now that it was confirmed Torres’ blood was on his jacket and the SUV.

But Landers was not at his hearing Friday because he was being held in “medical isolation” at Cook County Jail and Dawkins noted that defendants are required to be in court for a no-bail ruling. So Dawkins will rule on the prosecution’s motion for no bail at a later date.

Landers’ attorney argued that the allegations against him are “largely circumstantial” and noted that while it was “clear the vehicle may have been used,” there are no eyewitness who could put Landers in the vehicle at the time of the murder.

Dawkins agreed the case was circumstantial, but said while there were many RAV4’s in the city, “Not everyone is driving a Toyota RAV4 that has blood stain in it” matching the victim’s.

“The fact that there is no motive in this case ... the random nature of the crime establishes that [Landers] is a danger to the public,” Dawkins said.

Landers’ case is expected to be back in court on Jan. 21.