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A year later, Mateo murder still unsolved

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Family, friends march, demand justice for Tae

By Tim Hadac

A year after she held the hand of her 3-year-old son as he lay dying, Verónica Zastro has seen justice delayed, but insists it won’t be denied.

Surrounded by dozens of family members, friends and neighbors last Saturday, the young mother witnessed the unveiling of a street sign noting the new and honorary designation of the 6800 block of South Kildare as Mateo Zastro Way.

The West Lawn mother also led a march to the grocery store at 67th and Kildare where days earlier, acclaimed artist Milt Coronado put the finishing touches on a mural honoring the short life of the boy known affectionately as Tae.

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Artist Milt Coronado puts the finishing touches on a “Mateo” mural on the side of a grocery store at 67th and Kildare, days before the 6800 block of South Kildare was given the honorary designation of Mateo Zastro Way. – Photo courtesy of Jennifer New

Convinced that the killer’s family lives nearby in West Lawn, Verónica Zastro said the street designation—engineered by 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares—and the mural will ratchet up pressure on the family and perhaps others to step forward and give up those responsible for the boy’s murder.

“They’re going to have to look at my son’s face and his name every day,” she told the Greater Southwest News-Herald earlier this week.

And while most unsolved slayings go cold—often for good—after a year, she said her battle to bring the killer to justice is as strong as ever. “I’m not going away, not at all,” she said. “If I have to turn this whole [neighborhood] upside down to find [the killer], I will.”

Background

Mateo Zastro was pronounced dead at 4:13 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 at Advocate Christ Medical Center, less than eight hours after he was struck in the head by gunfire just west of 67th and Kostner.

Police have in the past described the slaying as the outcome of a road rage incident that may have started near 70th and Cicero at about 8:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30. Mateo’s mother was reportedly trying to de-escalate the situation by driving away, but her SUV was pursued by men in a vehicle described as a red Dodge Charger. A backseat passenger in that vehicle was said to be the gunman.

Mateo was in the back seat of his mother’s vehicle because he wanted to sit next to his older brother, according to published reports. Mateo was the only person struck by gunfire. His brother, two older sisters and his mother were not struck by bullets.

The shooter remains at large. There is a $7,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the gunman. Those with useful information to share are encouraged to call CPD Area 1 detectives at (312) 747-8380.

More marches planned

Verónica told the Greater Southwest News-Herald this week she plans to resume marches on the 30th of each month until the killer is apprehended. Marches typically start about 6 p.m. at 67th and Kolmar (roughly where the Zastro vehicle was when Mateo was shot) and make their way east, ending at 66th Place and Pulaski in a small parking lot on the southeast corner.

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The new street sign at 68th and Kildare, shortly after its unveiling last Saturday. The designation was made by the Chicago Department of Transportation, at the request of 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares – Photo courtesy of Jennifer New

While family forms the core of the marchers, all are welcome to join and add their voices to the demand for justice. Setting a good example in that regard are West Lawn business owner Eddie Guillen, Hope Church Midway Pastor Jj Molodecki and Clearing resident Jennifer New, best known as the driving force behind the Prayer in the Park gatherings designed to promote a more peaceful city. All three were singled out by Verónica for their dedication.

New said she hopes that Mateo’s murder, “an evil act committed in darkness, is brought into the light” by the persistence and faith of those who march to demand justice.

They may soon be joined by members of the Cook County Crime Stoppers, one of the nation’s oldest, civilian-led groups focusing on ferreting out tips that lead to solving homicides. “We work with families and others to go door-to-door,” CCCS Chairman George McDade has said. “We do more than pass out flyers. We talk to people face to face; and so often, that kind of encounter leads to tips—far more than, say, taping a flyer to a light pole. Our methods work. We get results. We’d certainly help [the Zastro family] if we are asked.”

Since 1986, the non-profit Cook County Crime Stoppers has generated some 12,247 felony-level crime tips; solved more than 2,620 cases; have made over 3,122 offenders be accountable for their crimes; removed 223 guns from the hands of criminals and recovered $22,570,889 in stolen property and illegal narcotics. CCCS tipsters have helped police solve murders, sexual assaults, bank robberies, abuse to children and seniors, as well as animals.

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