Victim's Friends Call for Action, Arrest in Deadly Hit-and-Run

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Friends of a Chicago woman killed in a hit-and-run crash last year are asking authorities to take action in the seemingly stalled case where police had plenty of leads.

Last August, beloved attorney Linda Mensch, 70, was killed when she was hit by a driver in a van as she and a friend stepped into the crosswalk as they left the Garfield Park Conservatory in the 300 block of North Central Park Avenue.

Chicago police sent out a community alert with a photo of the vehicle and its license plate number. But now, nearly seven months later, still no arrest in the case.

Chicago saw more than 37,000 hit-and-run crashes in 2021, but over that same time period, just 306 people were arrested on charges related to fleeing the scene of a crash, according to city data analyzed by NBC 5 Investigates. Phil Rogers has the story.

When Mensch's daughter Jessica Heyman spoke to NBC 5 Investigates earlier this year, police had not even interviewed the owner of the van - even after finding it parked outside his home after the crash.

Last weekend, friends of Mensch gathered at the Garfield Park Conservatory - the scene of the crash - to celebrate her birthday and to fill out cards asking authorities to arrest her killer.

"Please solve this crime, this vehicular homicide," said Lynn Orman Weiss. "We ask humbly to the State’s Attorney’s office and to the Chicago Police Department, please do what’s right."

In any hit-and-run crash, there would appear to be only three scenarios: Either the car was stolen - in this case it was not - or the owner was driving, which makes them a suspect, or they know who was driving, which would make them a witness.

"I know that if I lent my car out and someone committed a crime, they would come to who the car is registered to," Angalia Bianca said at the event. "So I would have one of two choices: tell who I lent it to, or I’d have to take that rap and go to jail. So I feel that I really want to stress to the State’s Attorney’s office to really do your due diligence to solve this and give peace to her family along with all her loved ones."

"I just want justice for Linda," added Joan Sullivan.

As the alarming menace of hit-and-run crashes in Chicago grows, the number of these crimes that police actually solve remains shockingly low. NBC 5 Investigates’ Phil Rogers takes a deeper look at the serious issue.

Mensch's friends say that it's time for someone in a position of authority to make an arrest for this crime.

"Whatever you do, continue to know that you’re doing it on behalf of a woman who lived life well and lived it fully with passion and gave to many, and you will be giving peace and tranquility to many others when you do solve this case," said Cecilia Mowatt.

The Cook County State's Attorney's office said in a statement that it supports the Chicago police investigation into the crime.

"We are aware that the Chicago Police Department is actively investigating this incident and we are supporting their efforts," the office said in a statement. "As with all cases, when information is presented to us, we will review to determine if charges are appropriate - based on the facts, evidence, and the law. The CCSAO is committed to working with our law enforcement partners as we strive to increase safety in our communities."

Mensch was one of at least 36 people killed in hit-and-run crashes across Chicago last year.

The number of hit-and-runs has skyrocketed in recent years, reaching more than 37,000 in 2021 alone. That same year, just 306 people were arrested on charges related to fleeing the scene of a crash, according to city data analyzed by NBC 5 Investigates.

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