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Largest reward in city history offered in manhunt for Rogers Park spree killer

With the investigation stalled more than a month after a pair of spree killings in Rogers Park, police and community groups on Thursday announced a $150,000 reward for information leading them to the gunman who has left the North Side neighborhood on edge.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said authorities hope the largest reward offered in any crime probe in the city’s history will encourage anyone who might have interacted with the killer to help them solve the puzzling murders of Douglass Watts and Eliyahu Moscowitz.

“The Rogers Park community, along with the entire city of Chicago, was rocked by the senseless murders that took place here just over five weeks ago,” Johnson said at the Loyola Park field house. “Someone out there right now knows who this person is, whether it be an acquaintance, a friend, a relative or a loved one.

“We are using every resource at our disposal to find the individual responsible,” Johnson said. “And we will not stop until we have this suspect in custody.”

Detectives have received more than 430 tips and are still following several leads, according to Johnson, but without more help from the public, the case could stay cold.

The first killing happened on a Sunday morning, just after 10 a.m. Sept. 30 as Watts, 73, walked his dogs just steps away from his home in the 1400 block of West Sherwin Ave.

About 36 hours later, on Oct. 1, Moscowitz was alone playing Pokemon Go on the Loyola lakefront path near Lunt Avenue when someone walked up about 10:30 p.m. and shot the 24-year-old in the head at point-blank range — the same manner in which Watts was slain.

Ballistic tests showed that shell casings recovered from both scenes — barely half a mile apart from each other — came from the same gun, police announced a day after the second murder.

Authorities released surveillance video of the suspect recorded after Watts’ murder, showing a man disguised in black clothing with a ski mask running away with a distinctive gait, with his toes pointed outward.

The fact that the suspect arrived and left the scene on foot has made detectives think he’s from Rogers Park.

“The honest answer is we don’t know where he is right now,” Johnson said Thursday. “He’s obviously laying low right now. He knows there’s a lot of pressure… But I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s moved out of Chicago.”

Cameras near the the lakefront did not capture evidence on Moscowitz’s killing, according to police. Detectives have pored over hundreds of hours of video but remain mostly empty-handed.

Investigators initially suggested Watts had been the victim of a robbery, but later said nothing was taken from him or Moscowitz.

The possibility of a hate crime was also briefly floated — Watts was gay, and Moscowitz an Orthodox Jew — but investigators now say that isn’t likely. The victims have no apparent connection.

“We don’t know the motive of this individual and we probably won’t until we get him and are able to talk to him,” Johnson said.

Police released a surveillance photo of a masked man suspected in the murders of Eliyahu Moscowitz (top left) and Douglass Watts (bottom left). | Provided photos

Police released a surveillance photo of a masked man suspected in the murders of Eliyahu Moscowitz (top left) and Douglass Watts (bottom left). | Provided photos

In the weeks after the killings, police dedicated an “unprecedented” 40 detectives to the case.

“We’re not quite at the numbers we were back then but we still have a substantial amount of personnel out there,” Johnson said.

Longtime Rogers Park resident Ginny Durkin said she’s stopped walking her dog at night in the wake of the murders.

“It’s horrible. I never noticed men’s feet before all this,” Durkin said, referring to the suspect’s unique gait. “But you can’t spend your life worrying constantly.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Area North detectives at (312) 744-8261. Anonymous tips can be submitted at cpdtip.com.

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