This story was originally published by Block Club Chicago on June 8.
LOGAN SQUARE — Belinda Johnson can’t bring herself to watch the final moments of her daughter’s life.
She knows what happened. Last August, on a hot summer morning, a man chased down her 33-year-old daughter Laquesha Holmes and shot her 12 times on a quiet residential street in Logan Square. Holmes crumpled to the ground next to a dumpster as the gunman jumped in his black Dodge Charger and sped off.
A week or two into the investigation, police found video footage of the murder, captured by a nearby church’s surveillance camera. It doesn’t clearly show Holmes’ or the gunman’s faces, but outlines are painful enough. Nearly a year later, Johnson hasn’t watched the video — and she’s not sure she ever will.
“I could see the video, if I want to. I don’t know if I really want to see it … they say it’s really, really bad,” Johnson said, sitting on her couch in suburban South Holland, miles away from where her daughter was murdered.
The execution happened at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 23 — a Tuesday — at Spaulding Avenue and Cortland Street. Police said Holmes was walking down the street when a man got out of the Charger, chased after her and fired shots, hitting her 12 times. She was taken to Stroger Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
The murder sent shock waves through the neighborhood: How could a woman have been executed in broad daylight on a sunny Tuesday morning in Logan Square? News outlets covered the immediate aftermath, quoting scared neighbors and unnamed friends of Holmes. Coverage came to a relative halt, however, when Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), who represents the surrounding ward, said detectives believed the fatal shooting stemmed from a domestic dispute.
But Johnson insists her daughter, who lived with various friends and family on the city’s South Side and in the south suburbs, was lured to Logan Square by a man she didn’t know very well, if at all. A Chicago Police spokeswoman recently confirmed the case is not being investigated as a domestic incident. The police report, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, does not include any mention of a domestic dispute.
No one has been charged in Holmes’ murder, according to police. Johnson said she and everyone else in Holmes’ circle knows who killed her daughter. Block Club Chicago is not naming the man because he has not been charged in Holmes’ murder.
“I didn’t know him at all. I never seen him or anything,” Johnson said of the killer.
Exactly why the man killed Holmes is unclear, though Johnson acknowledges her daughter was in and out of jail, mainly for her part in an identity theft ring.
“When you’re living a lifestyle like we live, you meet different people all the time … I don’t know the reason,” Johnson said.
In the weeks leading up to the murder, Holmes told her mother she was tired and wanted to leave her life of crime behind. But she didn’t get the chance to. Less than two weeks after being released from prison, Holmes was murdered in Logan Square. She left four children, ages 17, 15, 11 and 8, behind.
“She didn’t live over there. She was taken over there. She lost her life over there,” Johnson said.
“[The neighborhood] speaks about it for three days, then everybody’s done and moved on. It’s like, ‘It was a domestic dispute. Everybody’s safe, go back to work.’ But me and her sisters and her kids are never going to be OK. They worried about the community, but they not worried about the family,” Johnson said.
Johnson treats her Facebook page like a diary, routinely posting personal letters to Holmes. Coping with the loss of her daughter is an ongoing struggle, she said.
In a recent post, she tells her daughter about an 11-year-old boy who was gunned down.
“He’s so young, what did he do, that someone killed and left him in the streets. What did you do, Quesha?” Johnson wrote. “I’ve heard so many stories, which is true?”
‘She was so much more than that’
Holmes got into identity theft by watching her mother do it.
Johnson herself spent much of her life, from age 15 to 44, stealing peoples’ identities, forging their signatures and opening credit cards in their names. Federal court records show Johnson was convicted of federal identity fraud with multiple other defendants in 2002. She received the harshest sentence.
“I was buying 20 identities at a time, maybe more. Printing checks, printing birth certificates, printing social security cards and then going out and writing checks and taking items back to the store and getting the money back or opening instant credit and buying nice things, designer labels,” Johnson said.
“You always say, ‘I’m going to stop when I save up this amount of money,’ but you just can’t stop. Or I get a job, and the job pays me $300 every two weeks, when I could make $300 in two seconds.”
Since being released from prison, Johnson has cleaned up her life, she said. She got a job at a factory, takes care of her grandchildren and has plans to mentor youth in jail and even open her own soul food restaurant. She said she wishes Holmes had the same opportunity for a fresh start.
“Everybody speak about the bad part of Quesha, but she took care of a lot of people. They don’t speak about that,” Johnson said.
Holmes was a fun-loving person, always the life of the party, according to Johnson. She was known for helping people out, whether that meant throwing an elaborate baby shower or feeding and housing friends when they needed it. She had dreams of opening her own clothing store in Atlanta.
“She was a caregiver,” Johnson said.
Blake Davis, 24, and his girlfriend, Sam Fuehring, 21, had just moved into their apartment two weeks prior to the fatal shooting. They were getting ready for work when they heard commotion and went outside to find police tape everywhere.
“It was pretty traumatic. We had only been here a couple of weeks,” Davis said.
A maintenance worker at The Association House of Chicago, a mental health clinic across the street from where the shooting occurred, said he was in the back fixing the gate when he heard a lot of shouting followed by a series of gunshots.
Johnson said she talked to Holmes via Facebook video chat for about an hour before the shooting. At one point, the call got disconnected and, rather than call her back, Johnson went about her day.
“Normally I’d call her back, but this particular day, I didn’t because she always telling me to stay off my [Facebook],” Johnson said.
At 10:27 a.m., Holmes called one of her sisters, who was working at the Cheesecake Factory at the time, Johnson said. Holmes’ sister didn’t answer.
A few minutes later, Holmes was gunned down, her lifeless body lying against the dumpster, many miles from anyone or anything she knew.