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updated: 9/4/2014 1:06 PM

Bond denied for 71-year-old suspect in 1992 murder

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Daily Herald report

Bond was denied today for a man charged with strangling a 15-year-old boy and dumping his body in a Cook County Forest Preserve more than 20 years ago, according to Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's office.

Robert Serritella, 71, was charged in August with the 1992 murder of David Chereck, following a lengthy joint investigation by the Cold Case units of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department. He was arrested in Los Angeles.

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Serritella was already suspect in the slaying when he abruptly disappeared during the initial investigation, authorities said.

However, Serritella telephoned Chereck's mother on two occasions in the summer of 2013, telling her that he witnessed her son get into a vehicle on the night of his murder and saying he had a description of the man who lured him into the car, the state's attorney says.

Based upon that information, and through re-interviews of old witnesses and new details developed in the case, the state's attorney's office approved an arrest warrant for Serritella for first-degree murder last month. Serritella was brought from Los Angeles to Cook County on Wednesday, and appeared in bond court Thursday at the Criminal Courts Building in Skokie.

"A case may go cold for an extended period of time, but we do not forget about our victims and we thank the Chereck family for their extreme patience and their assistance throughout the course of this investigation," Alvarez said Thursday in a news release. "We hope that these charges bring some measure of justice for the heinous murder and tragic loss of this young man."

According to prosecutors, a man walking his dog in the Linne Woods area of Skokie found a body at about 6:30 a.m. Jan. 2, 1992. Police identified the victim as David Chereck and determined that he was strangled with his own scarf.

During the initial investigation, Robert Serritella, then 49, contacted police and claimed to have information about Chereck's death. Detectives made attempts to interview Serritella, but he left Skokie and abruptly moved to the West Coast, authorities said.

The investigation continued for several years. In March 1998 a Chicago television reporter made contact with Serritella in Las Vegas and aired an interview in which Serritella made statements placing himself near Chereck around the time of the crime.

In 2004, a witness came forward and claimed Serritella had confided in him that he knew what happened to Chereck on the night of the crime. The witness said Serritella alternated between speaking in first and third person when describing the offender, authorities said.

In June 2013, Serritella contacted the victim's mother by telephone, the state's attorney's office said. Serritella again claimed to have information about her son's murder and gave various details about the crime while also inquiring about the ongoing investigation. Investigators traced the call to Serritella's cellphone and they got a court order allowing for the recording of any future calls. The second call from Serritella came one week later.

Cook County Judge Marcia Orr denied bond for Serritella during a bond hearing Thursday in Skokie. His next court date is set for Sept. 24.

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