CHICAGO — Mary Smith's five siblings expressed relief and gratitude Sunday as a sex offender serving a 25-year sentence was charged in their sister's decades-old murder.
"We didn't know what to expect," said Robert Smith Jr., 56, the oldest of Mary Smith's siblings. "It was an alarming reaction."
Michael A. Escort, 52, was led into court in a yellow jumpsuit and remained silent while being charged with first-degree murder. The cold case stemmed from an Oct. 3, 1989 incident on the 5800 block of South Lowe Avenue in Englewood, police said.
Escort was already serving time in Stateville Correctional Center for two counts of aggravated sexual assault and a kidnapping that occurred in 1991. Records show he also served a five-year sentence for a 1982 residential burglary.
DNA evidence linked him to the case 23 years after Smith's violent murder in what her family described as an old milk factory in Englewood.
According to Smith's brother Dennis Keith Smith, 54, his sister's body was found beaten, strangled and disrobed — her clothes were left on top of a roof connected to the warehouse. Part of the 34-year-old's arm and an ear were dismembered in the attack.
"There was just the one blood stain where her head had been," said Smith, who had identified his sister's body all those years ago.
"We feel gratitude that something has been done."
The Smith family gathered at their mother's home in Englewood following the court proceeding — the same home where Mary Smith had lived at the time of her death.
"Her reaction was like a big sigh of relief," Robert Smith said of his ailing mother. "She said a prayer and thanked God. She said that things were finally going come to a close."
According to her family, Smith was a kind, loving and intelligent young woman who nonetheless suffered several hurdles, including drug addiction.
"She had her time of going through changes in life but overall she a good provider for her kids — a good mother," Smith said. "When she became addicted to drugs she never tried to hurt anyone, she just turned in a different direction than we wished she had. I don't think she fully recovered."
Even now, Smith's family celebrates the life of their lost loved one.
Her daughter threw a birthday party in her honor this past August, accoring to Smith.
"Even though its been 23 years later we still miss her and think about her everyday," he said.
According to state records, Escort was to be discharged on parole on Dec. 23. He will appear in court again Monday morning, according to Smith's family.
Mary Smith is survived by her two daughters and six grandchildren.