After 13 years, Des Plaines police detective Jennifer De Pastors is hopeful of catching the fugitive suspect in the 1999 murder of a 30-year-old United Airlines flight attendant.
De Pastors believes she may finally get a break in the cold case once it is featured on "America's Most Wanted."
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The story behind the brutal murder of Young Kavila, a Korean woman stabbed to death in her Des Plaines apartment Nov. 30, 1999, will air June 15 on Lifetime.
Police have had a warrant out for a suspect identified as Luis Rodriguez-Mena since 2008.
"I just want to grab him," said De Pastors, visibly excited and anxious about shining a national spotlight on the case she calls her "baby." "This would make my career."
De Pastors had been a detective for only two years when she was assigned to the Kavila murder. The flight attendant died from multiple stab and slash wounds to the neck, and her almost-naked body was discovered by her roommate on the kitchen floor of their first-floor unit at Colonial Park Apartments in the 600 block of Colonial Lane, near Elmhurst and Algonquin roads.
Authorities believe it was a crime of opportunity, saying the suspect lived across the street in the Clayton Court Apartment complex.
Authorities didn't have a suspect until a family member of Rodriguez-Mena's, who went to Mexico with his girlfriend the day after the murder, told police in 2007 that Rodriguez-Mena was bragging about the murder to his relatives and threatened to kill anyone who gave him up.
Police later tracked down Rodriguez-Mena's former girlfriend, who they said had been battered and held hostage by him and his family members until she escaped years later with their baby son, leaving Mexico and returning to her family's home in Chicago.
The former girlfriend was critical to the police investigation, helping confirm through a DNA test of her child that it was Rodriguez-Mena's blood found at the murder scene, De Pastors said. She also told police that Kavila fought her attacker with a small razor, leaving scars across his chest and hip area, De Pastors said.
The former girlfriend is participating in the "America's Most Wanted" segment, although the show is blurring her face and not identifying her.
De Pastors and the girlfriend were both interviewed two months ago for the segment. De Pastors first approached the producers of "America's Most Wanted" early in the investigation, but they weren't interested because there was no suspect at the time, she said. The producers got interested once they heard the suspect, now nearly 40, was seen March 2011 in Chicago, spying on his now 12-year-old son, De Pastors said.
"America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh said he was moved by De Pastors' relentless passion for capturing the killer.
"Jennifer has never given up on this case," Walsh said Tuesday while filming part of the segment in Des Plaines. "Now, we have the fugitive's name."
Walsh said the show has Spanish-language operators to take the calls of anyone wishing to leave an anonymous tip.
"We've caught guys in 25 countries around the world," Walsh said. "I've caught almost 1,200 guys. I've caught over 30 guys in Mexico that were dragged back. We're going to make the world a smaller place for him to hide."
Anyone with information about Rodriguez-Mena is asked to call Des Plaines police at (847) 391-5400 or the "America's Most Wanted" hotline, (800) CRIME-TV, or visit amw.com.