A tragic incident unfolded in Harwood Heights, Illinois, when a woman lost her life following a brutal carjacking. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed her death on Sunday. The incident took place on Wednesday morning in the vicinity of Wilbur Wright College, on the 4400 block of Natchez Avenue.
The suspect, Reese Miller, a 24-year-old homeless man originally from Urbana, is currently in custody without bail. According to police reports, around 6:30 a.m., Miller forcibly removed the 61-year-old victim from her vehicle, secured a zip tie around her neck, and violently struck her head against the ground before fleeing in her car.
Law enforcement officials were able to apprehend Miller in Crete, thanks to license plate reader technology. The victim, identified as Ma L. Operio, was initially in critical condition and on life support, but was declared dead on Sunday.
Prosecutors revealed that Miller left a note expressing remorse for his actions. Although a Ring camera placed Miller at the scene, it failed to capture the actual carjacking. Despite being charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated vehicular carjacking, Miller has no prior criminal record or arrests. His public defender stated that he suffers from complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
The attack on Operio occurred outside her home in Harwood Heights while she was cleaning her car. Miller allegedly strangled her with a zip tie and beat her head against the pavement before driving away in her stolen car. A witness reported seeing a man in a black hoodie choking Operio near her car before driving off in her blue Toyota.
Upon arrival, police found Operio with a purple face, indicating strangulation. Miller was arrested in the stolen car, with visible scrapes on his hands and knees and a bloodstain on his jeans. His clothing matched the description provided by the witness and a man seen on video near the crime scene minutes before the assault.
Operio was revived and transported to Lutheran General Hospital, where she was placed on life support. Her family made the difficult decision to remove her from life support on Saturday after being informed she was brain dead. In a strange twist, police discovered a note in the stolen car after it was towed, seemingly referencing the crime. A knife was also found in the vehicle.
Prosecutors stated that Miller confessed to stealing Operio’s car after strangling her with a zip tie. He was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated vehicular hijacking, with additional charges expected. Operio’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to assist with funeral expenses.