UPTOWN — An Ethiopian family in Uptown is searching for answers after the mysterious death of their 18-year-old daughter, whose body was found in an apartment this month just two blocks from her home.
Mona Ali's was body was found at 1:30 p.m. March 9, in an apartment in the 4600 block of North Winthrop Avenue, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. She was pronounced dead at the scene, which is not far from where she lived with her family in a high-rise building in the 4800 block of North Winthrop.
The results of her autopsy were pending Friday evening, and police said they were still investigating the case.
"It's tough, very hard. Very, very hard," her father, Abduselam Ali, said on Friday.
The night of March 8 was the last time Mona Ali's family saw her alive, they said.
She was getting dressed to go to a party and told her parents she was waiting for a family friend, 18-year-old Issa Issa, to give her a ride, according to her father. He said she left the house about 9 p.m.
"She went out with her friends to a party. We don't know exactly what happened," he said.
But in an interview, Issa said he was working at the time and that he did not pick Mona Ali up.
Issa said Ali told him she took a taxi from her house to an Edgewater hookah lounge to hang out with friends from Harold Washington College, where she, like Issa, was a student.
He met the group at 11 p.m. after he got off work. Some of the group later ended up "driving around the city," and eventually went to hang out at Montrose Harbor until after 1 a.m., he said.
Issa drove some of the others in the group to their cars, he said.
When they pulled up to Ali's home, she told him, "'I'm not going home,'" Issa said. She instead asked him to drop her off at an apartment two blocks away, near Leland and Winthrop. He had dropped her off at that address "two or three times" before, but he did not know whom she was meeting, and he did not see if she actually went inside, he said.
"That was the last time I talked to her in person," Issa said.
What happened next and with whom she met is unclear. Attempts to interview residents in the building were unsuccessful.
Issa said she texted him at 2:30 a.m. asking about her cellphone charger, which was in his car.
Abduselam Ali said that he and his wife spent the morning of March 9 calling their daughter's cellphone after they awoke at home and realized that she was not there. Nobody answered until about 2 p.m. — when police picked up and told them their daughter was dead, he said. Police Sgt. Jason Clark, who works out of the Town Hall Police District, said that Mona Ali's body "was indoors when [police] found her."
Police said there were no obvious visual signs of foul play when they found her body, but would not comment further and have not released any other details about their investigation.
Her family and friends were in a state of shock after hearing about her death.
"She was very cool and very calm. She never had any problems with anybody," her father said.
A graduate of Senn High School in Edgewater, Ali was in her first year of studies at Harold Washington.
"We had this group of people, and we used to always hang and have lunch together," said Noora Yousuf, 20, who was in Senn's ROTC program with Ali before both graduated in 2012. Yousuf said Ali would "never smoke or drink in her life."
Yousuf saw Ali a week before her death, but thought Ali was playing a practical joke when she didn't respond to texts Yousuf sent last weekend.
“Mona stop messing with me. Mona pick up,” one of the texts read.
Yousuf said when she visited the Ali family Monday, she hoped the whole thing wasn't true and her friend would still be alive.
"I walked into her apartment, and I still had this little hope that I'd see her there — I had this hope in me that I’d see her," she said.
But it was only Mona Ali's grieving family and friends.
"Her father is really strong," Yousuf said. "He told me, 'Whatever happened is written already.' ”