An Alsip man was formally charged Thursday in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Mary Austgen, the Indiana business owner who was found dead last month in the parking lot of the Majestic Star Casino.
Ralph Martinez, 57, faces charges of murder, robbery and criminal confinement, officials said.
Austgen's son, Jeff Austgen, said the family was "elated" that authorities were charging someone with the crime.
Martinez was taken in for questioning Tuesday after executing a search warrant at a home on the 12200 block of South Lawndale Avenue in Alsip, Ill. His arrest, first reported by the Times of Northwest Indiana, came days after officials announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Austgen's killer.
Authorities say Martinez, a former tenant of Austgen's, stole $3,000 in the robbery. Martinez was evicted a year or two ago, but authorities said they weren't sure what his motive was in the slaying.
Austgen, 76, was found inside her white 2011 GMC Yukon Denali in the casino parking garage in the early morning hours of March 29. Security cameras hours earlier recorded a man at the woman's place of business, Austgen Electric. Officials said Austgen was attacked at the business, in the 800 block of East Main Street, in Griffith, and then kidnapped at gunpoint.
Austgen was found by a casino employee with gunshot wounds to the torso. Officials a week later released surveillance images captured from Austgen Electric of a man with a handgun leading Austgen out of the business and into her vehicle. Surveillance cameras at the casino also recorded that same man being picked up by someone driving a black, four door vehicle in the valet area at about 6:45 p.m. on March 28, officials said Monday.
Officials said Martinez is the man seen in the surveillance video. The driver of the black car has since been located and cleared of charges, authorities said.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Monday offered a reward of $5,000.00 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Austgen's death. Another $5,000.00 was gathered through private donations.
|Police executed a search warrant on this Alsip home on Tuesday. | Photo: Lauren Jiggetts|
|Griffith police said Mary Austgen's two rings, shown in these photos, were taken when the business owner was abducted. They have not been recovered.|
|Surveillance cameras at the casino recorded the same man seen at Austgen Electric being picked up by someone driving a black, four door vehicle in the valet area at about 6:45 p.m. on March 28, officials said Monday.|