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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Melissa Ortega’s Mother Wants 8-Year-Old’s Killer Brought To Justice: ‘You Took My Reason For Living’

In an interview with Univision's Despierta America, mother Araceli Leaños tells her daughter’s killer she forgives them, but wants them held responsible.

Mourning community members created a vigil to honor the life of Melissa Ortega, 8, who was shot and killed by a stray bullet Saturday afternoon in Little Village.
Univision/Madison Savedra/Block Club Chicago
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LITTLE VILLAGE — In a devastating interview, the mother of slain 8-year-old Melissa Ortega called for the person who killed her daughter last week in Little Village to be brought to justice.

“You took my entire life,” Araceli Leaños said in Spanish during an interview with Univision’s Despierta America Monday. “You took the most beautiful thing, you took my reason for living … You have taken dreams from a marvelous girl.”

“From my heart, I’m telling you I forgive you because I know that one day, with the help of God I will find peace. But I know that you will not live in peace for the rest of your days,” Leaños said. 

Melissa was shot and killed by a stray bullet Saturday afternoon near the intersection of West 26th Street and South Pulaski Road in Little Village. Police said she was not the intendeded target and the shooting was likely related to an ongoing gang conflict. 

Police said Monday they have “very strong leads” in the case. In response to the shooting, police are increasing patrols in the neighborhood to be “highly visible” and offering up to $15,000 for tips that lead to an arrest or conviction. 

Credit: Provided
Melissa Ortega, 8, was fatally shot in Little Village Saturday afternoon.

Leaños said her daughter Melissa was beautiful, funny, quiet and social. She said she wants justice not only for Melissa, but for others who have lost their lives to gun violence.

“I’m only asking for justice, because this is a great pain,” Leaños said. “I’m asking that you catch the person responsible.” 

Leaños said she and her daughter came to Chicago with a dream. The two of them just moved to Little Village from Mexico in August. 

“But unfortunately, my daughter was taken from my arms,” she said.

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