Wheeling police: 21-year-old mother killed, 1-year-old daughter kidnapped

Police are urgently searching for a 1-year-old girl believed kidnapped after the killing of her mother, who was found dead late Tuesday night in her Wheeling apartment.

"We really need the public's assistance right now," Wheeling Deputy Police Chief Al Steffen said Wednesday. "They might be able to connect a link we don't have."

Officers conducting a well-being check discovered 21-year-old Ja'nya Murphy dead at her apartment on Inland Drive, authorities said.

Steffen declined to say Wednesday how investigators believe Murphy died but said evidence at the scene made clear that there was an assault.

Murphy's daughter, Jaclyn "Angel" Dobbs, was missing from the apartment and is believed to be in danger.

"We know that because the child is missing and not with her loved ones," Steffen said.

Police have not yet issued an Amber Alert for Angel because they don't have information about whom she might be with or what kind of vehicle may be involved, Steffen said. Investigators have been in touch with the girl's father, he said.

"We have no persons of interest as of yet," Steffen said. "There's no indication that anyone would want to hurt (Murphy)."

According to police, Murphy's family members filed a missing persons report at 10:22 p.m. Tuesday, after becoming concerned that she hadn't shown up at her job at a store and hadn't been in contact with relatives since Monday night.

Steffen said family members were so concerned that after they had been to her apartment a number of times and there was no answer, police and firefighters went to the apartment to gain access. They used a ladder to get onto the apartment's balcony, where the door was unlocked.

"It was readily apparent to the officers that went in that it was a crime scene," Steffen said.

Investigators, including those from more than 20 police departments who are part of a regional task force, are trying to piece together the last 24 to 48 hours of Murphy's life. The probe includes searching for anyone who she may have been in contact with or spent time with, and other details of her personal history.

The Cook County medical examiner's office is also scheduled to perform an autopsy Thursday.

Murphy grew up in Lincolnshire and was a 2018 graduate of Stevenson High School.

"She was highly thought of at her job," Steffen said. "She was like a lot of other 21-year-olds trying to figure things out and decide which direction she wanted to go. She had a child that she was taking care of. From everything that we've seen, she loved her child very much and had what seemed like a very supportive extended family."

Wheeling's social services division victim advocate is in close contact with the family, Steffen said.

  Wheeling police on Wednesday continued to investigate the killing of a 21-year-old woman found dead in her apartment Tuesday night and the apparent kidnapping of her 1-year-old daughter. Brian Hill/
Jaclyn "Angel" Dobbs Courtesy of Wheeling Police Department
Ja'nya Murphy Courtesy of Wheeling Police Department
  Wheeling police are searching for a 1-year-old girl they believe was kidnapped after the slaying of her 21-year-old mother Tuesday night at this apartment complex. Brian Hill/
  Police tape remained around an apartment complex on Inland Drive in Wheeling, where a 21-year-old woman was found dead Tuesday night. Brian Hill/
  Wheeling Deputy Police Chief Al Steffen speaks to the media Wednesday about the killing of 21-year-old Ja'nya Murphy and kidnapping of her 1-year-old daughter, Jaclyn "Angel" Dobbs. Brian Hill/
  A resident looks from a window as police investigated a killing and kidnapping at an apartment complex on Inland Drive in Wheeling. Brian Hill/
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