As she left Latino Youth High School last month, 19-year-old Marlen Ochoa-Lopez had one quick errand to run before picking up her 3-year-old son from day care. It was the last time she was seen alive.
Nine months pregnant, Ochoa-Lopez drove to a home on the Southwest Side where a woman she met through Facebook was offering a double stroller and maybe some baby clothes. Once inside, police say, Ochoa-Lopez was strangled and her baby boy cut from her womb.
But the newborn had problems breathing and the woman who had lured Ochoa-Lopez to the home made a frantic 911 call saying the baby was “pale and blue,” authorities say. The baby was rushed to a hospital, where the teen’s family says the boy is brain-dead but still hooked up to life support.
Ochoa-Lopez’s body was dumped behind the home in the 4100 block of West 77th Place, where it was discovered early Wednesday — nearly four weeks after she was killed — after residents of the home were taken into custody, police said.
Clarisa Figueroa, 46, and her daughter, Desiree, 24, are both charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery of a child causing permanent disability. The elder Figueroa’s boyfriend, Piotr Bobak, 40, is charged with concealment of a homicide. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said “we can only assume” the Figueroas planned to raise the baby as their own.
Following is a timeline of the case, pieced together from police, fire officials, the medical examiner’s office, the family and neighbors of the home where Ochoa-Lopez was found.
Timeline of the case
Leading up to April 23
Pregnant with her second child, Ochoa-Lopez joined an online Facebook group for mothers called Help A Sister Out, where she met Clarisa Figueroa. In the weeks before she disappeared, the teen posted that she was looking for baby clothes for her son, due to be born in early May.
“My girl has all brand new boy clothes her son never wore,” Figueroa replied, according to a screenshot provided by Ochoa-Lopez’s family.
“Yes girl thats fine thank you so much,” Ochoa-Lopez responded.
“No problem girl,” Figueroa said. “I know how it is she was lucky to have two baby showers so she just loves to spread the wealth I’m fine with the help inbox me for more info ok.”
Authorities said Ochoa-Lopez had been to the home at least once before the day she disappeared. “Apparently, Ms. Ochoa had bought other baby items from Clarisa in the past, so they knew each other,” said Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
Afternoon, April 23
After classes that Tuesday, Ochoa-Lopez drove from her high school in Little Village to Figueroa’s one-story brick home in the Scottsdale neighborhood, about 9 miles away. Police have released few details of what happened next but say the younger Figueroa has confessed to helping her mother strangle Ochoa-Lopez before the child was removed.
6 p.m., April 23
The Chicago Fire Department answered a 911 call from the home reporting that a child had just been born. When paramedics arrived, they saw “the baby was in obvious distress,” according to department spokesman Larry Langford. A source said the baby “was basically blue.”
The paramedics started advanced life support and radioed for another ambulance. The baby was taken in critical condition to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
Some paramedics stayed on the scene with the elder Figueroa, who police said claimed to be the mother. Paramedics asked her if she had any cramps, bleeding or dizziness and she said no. She was taken to the same hospital as a precaution.
Paramedics do not typically conduct physical examinations after childbirth, Langford said. At the time, there was nothing suspicious that raised alarms.
The family has questioned why doctors at Christ didn’t ask more questions when the baby was taken there. “Why didn’t they notice?” asked her Ochoa-Lopez’s father, Arnulfo Ochoa.
In a brief statement, the hospital declined to comment “out of respect for patient privacy and in compliance with federal and state regulations.”
The following days
The baby was placed in the intensive care unit, where he remains. The family has said the boy has no brain function, apparently from lack of oxygen. In the following days, the residents of the home on 77th Place apparently set up a GoFundMe page for the baby, according to screenshots provided by Ochoa-Lopez’s family.
Clarisa Figueroa was listed as organizing the fundraising drive, which sought $9,000. The page featured a picture of a small baby hooked up to a breathing tube and monitors. It has since been taken down. A spokeswoman for GoFundMe said, “This campaign was removed from the platform because it violated GoFundMe terms and conditions. All donors will be refunded.” It had no further comment.
Police say detectives didn’t begin to piece the case together until May 7 — two weeks after Ochoa-Lopez went missing — when a friend mentioned that she had joined the Facebook site and detectives learned the teen had gone to the Figueroa home the day she disappeared.
Detectives went there and interviewed the younger Figueroa, who eventually said her mother had just given birth to a baby. A search of the neighborhood revealed Ochoa-Lopez’s car parked not far away. Neighbors on the block said they had seen the car around the neighborhood and noticed several parking tickets on it.
The same day, detectives went to Advocate Christ Medical Center to talk to the elder Figueroa, who denied Ochoa-Lopez had shown up at her house on April 23. Police subpoenaed hospital records and eventually learned from DNA evidence that the newborn was not the elder Figueroa’s child.
Using DNA extracted from Ochoa-Lopez’s toothbrush and hairbrush, authorities determine the baby is hers. Her family starts visiting the baby at the hospital.
Figueroa, her daughter and Bobak were taken into custody. Inside a garbage can in the backyard, police found Ochoa-Lopez’s body and the coaxial cable used to strangle her, authorities said. Detectives also found the remnants of burned clothes and the indication of blood throughout the Figueroa home, as well as bleach and cleaning solution.
Around 12:10 a.m., the medical examiner’s office was notified of the body found at the 77th Place address. Around 6:15 p.m., the office announced that the body was that of Ochoa-Lopez and said she was strangled and that her death was a homicide.
Around 11 a.m. May 16
Hours before the charges were announced, Ochoa-Lopez’s father was critical of police efforts, saying he didn’t think the department gave enough attention early on to the disappearance because of the family’s immigrant background.
“We came to this country to give a good life for my daughter,” Arnulfo Ochoa said outside the Cook County medical examiner’s office, where he had gone to view his daughter. “We just want justice for what they did for my daughter.”
Later, at a police news conference, officials were pressed by reporters to explain why detectives weren’t able to figure out more quickly what happened to Ochoa-Lopez.
“Once they got that break on May 7, then things started going quickly,” Johnson said. “There was nothing to point us in that direction in the beginning. Remember, this is real life. This isn’t ’48 Hours.’ It doesn’t work like that. It takes time.”
Brendan Deenihan, deputy chief of detectives, said he understood “everyone looking back and playing armchair quarterback. It’s like all these red flags that happened on the 23rd of April. But these defendants also … were not that wise. I mean the body’s in the garbage can on the premises with the murder weapon inside, and we were still able to get it that much later.”
Around 4:30 p.m. May 16
Police announce charges against Clarisa Figueroa, Desiree Figueroa and Piotr Bobak.
Who was charged
Cook County court records show that the elder Figueroa had two separate misdemeanor charges years ago, one for battery in 1998 and another for marijuana possession in 2008. Both cases were dropped.
Desiree Figueroa was convicted this past January for misdemeanor theft and was sentenced to four months of court supervision and community service. She missed a court date on April 29, the same day an arrest warrant was issued for her. She also was charged in 2013 with misdemeanor assault, but the case was dropped.
Bobak has convictions for two misdemeanors — one for public indecency in which he was sentenced in 2009 to six months of court supervision, court records show. He was also convicted of battery in 2012 and sentenced to two years of court supervision and community service in the Cook County Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program. At the time of his arrest, Bobak was on parole after being convicted of aggravated battery to a peace officer in downstate Morgan County. He was paroled in 2018 after being sentenced to three years in prison, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. In February of this year, an arrest warrant was issued for Bobak in a misdemeanor theft case in which he was accused of stealing someone’s methadone.
Sources: Police and fire officials, the medical examiner’s office, the family and neighbors
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