Feb. 4, 2008— -- A victim wounded during a Saturday morning massacre that claimed five lives inside an Illinois women's clothing store may be able to help identify the perpetrator, authorities said.
The shooting survivor, whose name had not been released, was sent to a local hospital after a gunman fatally shot four shoppers and the store manager at a Lane Bryant store in Tinley Park, a normally tranquil town 30 miles west of Chicago.
A hospital spokesman did not provide the condition of the victim Sunday or any details beyond a confirmation that a single shooting victim had been admitted.
A Kentucky newspaper reported Monday that the survivor is a 33-year-old female student with Kentucky ties who worked weekends at the store. The woman's parents told The Messenger of Madisonville, Ky., that the bullet intended to kill their daugther passed through her neck without hitting any vital body parts. The parents also reportedly said that all of the victims were bound and the five women who died suffered gunshot wounds to the back of the head.
Authorities hope the survivor will help them create a composite sketch to assist in the manhunt for the suspect, according to ABC News Chicago affiliate WLS. The gunman has been described as a black male, 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing about 250 pounds and wearing a black jacket to the waist, a black baseball cap and dark jeans. Police did not originally reveal that one woman had survived the shooting.
T.J. Grady, a spokesman for the Tinley Park police department, did not return multiple messages from ABC News seeking comment on the investigation. In a brief afternoon press conference, Grady offered some additional details about the gunman. The shooter's jeans had some type of rhinestone embroidery on a pocket and his thick, braided hair was pulled back and tied in at least one spot with light-green beads.
Grady said that there is a lot of false information being reported about the shooting, but declined to elaborate.
"There is so much misinformation going on right now," Grady said. "The minute we are able to confirm anything, we will do that for you."
The names of the five women fatally shot inside the plus-sized women's clothing store were released Sunday by the Will County Coroner's Office. They were Connie R. Woolfolk, 37, of Flossmoor; Sarah T. Szafranski, 22, of Oak Forest; Carrie H. Chiuso, 33, of Frankfort; Rhoda McFarland, 42, of Joliet; and Jennifer L. Bishop, 34, of South Bend, Ind.
Charming Shoppes, Inc., the parent company of Lane Bryant, offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the gunman in a search that now involves the FBI.
"The store manager of the Lane Bryant and four customers have lost their lives in this shooting," the company said in a statement that also announced that all of the company's Chicago-area Lane Bryant stores were going to be closed on Sunday.
Cook County Crime Stoppers offered an additional $5,000 for information about the case.
Maurice Hamilton, McFarland's brother, said the gunman needed to come out of hiding.
"It's just best to turn himself in," Hamilton told WLS. "My sister will forgive you."
Woolfolk's relatives urged the same, adding that her death will be particularly hard on her two sons.
"I think I'll be able to handle it," said her brother, Aaron Woolfolk. "It's more about her nieces and nephews and her kids, they're going to be the people who we're going to have to continue to watch to get through this."
Szafranski's family issued a statement about the tragedy.
"Our emotions are raw. And we are still in shock," the statement reads. "Sarah was loved by all who knew her and we are counting on that love to sustain us while we mourn."
The shooting and manhunt have shaken the 60,000-resident community. Flags will be flown at half-staff for five days, Mayor Edward Zabrocki announced — one day for each of the victims of the massacre. Five crosses were placed in a snowbank to commemorate the victims.
While encouraging vigilance, Zabrocki also pleaded for residents to carry on with normal activities as much as possible, despite the urgency of the manhunt.
"While it is normal to feel some fear when such a tragedy occurs, we should not allow this single, senseless act to shatter the sense of security that has always been provided in Tinley Park," he said in a statement. "Like other towns across the nation, we have been forced to face the cruel reality that, despite our best efforts, no community is immune to certain evils that exist in the world today."
Authorities Sunday described the investigation as "extremely sensitive" and said certain information had to be kept confidential. The shooting apparently took place after some type of botched robbery, they said Sunday.
The were no surveillance cameras at Lane Bryant, but authorities were looking at footage from surrounding stores to see if those cameras may caught the suspect fleeing.
Information from The Associated Press is used in this report.