Wednesday, March 26, 2008

11 Years After Valderrama Murder, Has Much Changed?

A reader sent in this information:
Raphael Valderrama, a prostitute, performed sex acts on the 11-acre Disney Magnet School Campus, immediately outside the school’s windows and in full view of students, for over 9 months, while the 23rd Police District refused to act. To protect students, teachers were forced to hold coats and blankets to cover windows as children passed through the school’s glass-walled halls. Despite pleas from CAP’s Beat Facilitator, School Council Representatives, the school principle, and Buena Park Neighbors, the police refused to act. In community meetings, Alderwoman, Helen Shiller, demanded that the police respect transsexuals and sex industry workers rights and leave him alone. School representatives maintained that Valderrama’s behavior suggested that he was a threat to children and installed electric door locks and a “front-only” entrance policy at the school.

As anticipated, Mr.Valderrama found a child to assault. The child was a stepbrother, from his estranged mother’s recent marriage. Mr.Valderrama visited his mother and asked that he be allowed to take his new step brother for the day to get to know him. Mr. Valderrama took his step-brother to his 4035 N. Sheridan home, a building known to house prostitution. At that location he sodomized, mutilated and murdered the child; wrapped the body in black garbage sacks; and tossed it down an air shaft.

Over seventy persons appeared at the next CAPS meeting demanding accountability. Clarence Woods, a Department of Human Relations mediator chosen by the Alderman, formed a CAPS committee by public election. The Open Meetings Act was violated when the elected community representatives were forcibly ejected from the first committee meeting by Police Commander De Lopez and 4 officers. Community members were told to leave the premises because they were being replaced by other residents who lived closer to the crime scene. Ejected community member, Pam Merema, recognized the replacements as members of Alderman Shiller’s staff.

CAPS beat facilitators, Pam Merema and Katherine Nathan, filed complaints with the CAPS program alleging the Community had been eliminated from Community Policing. Ted O’Keefe, Chicago’s CAPS project manager, directed 23rd District Commander De Lopez to apologize to Ms. Merema and Ms. Nathan. The committee meetings were never re-instituted and police accountability ever occurred.


  1. THANK YOU to whomever sent this in. I have been searching in vain for documented cases of child abuse and exploitation in Uptown. I can't tell you how many newspaper articles I have searched but without names and dates the search function is difficult.

    Why should we stand for this kind of response from our elected leaders?!? I am in total agreement that this society is too quick to demonize transsexuals and that when we only persecute 'sex workers' we are being unfair. However, there are socially responsible ways to balance these concerns with the needs of the community at large. This is especially vital when we are talking about children who don't need to be witnessing things that they aren't developmentally ready to understand.

    1. I actually knew John, he and I attended the same church together right off of Wilson. Christ Lutheran Church, his funeral was the first I attended as a child that held significant meaning in my life, one weekend we were playing basketball at church, the next he was gone... tragic story and I still think of his family today.

    2. I'm so sorry. This was before I lived in Uptown, but I looked up Rafael Valderrama online in the prison inmate data base and he is never getting out. Life sentence at Pontiac, no possibility of parole, on the sex offender list. What a terrible story and so sad that your childhood friend was murdered. Very unsettling.

  2. Could whomever sent this cite the source? It's fascinating, but until it's verifiable, hard to use as anything more than another tale of, well everything vile about our local "leadership."

  3. (Source: States News Service:

    ILLINOIS: A 22-year-old Chicago man has pleaded guilty to the sexual assault and
    mutilation murder of his 7-year-old half-brother. Raphael Valderrama
    pleaded guilty yesterday to 1st-degree murder. . .aggravated sexual
    assault. . .aggravated sexual abuse. . .and aggravated unlawful
    restraint. Valderrama is eligible for the death penalty.

    Rick Halperin

  4. That link appears to be broken. Do a quick google search of this man's name and you will find a bit of info. Shocking to see that even back in 1997, we had no media coverage. I will check the Trib site now.

  5. Thanks, although it's a link apparently available only through the University. If you have a source such as the newspaper or wire service and date, that would be great.
    What about the other allegations? I've lived here a long time and never heard this particular story before, so am wondering as to the source of these as well.

  6. I'm sure many of our readers can remember back to 1997 and can fill us in on all the sad details.

  7. I have done a thorough search of the Chicago Tribune and have not come up with anything. If I am wrong, I encourage someone with better access to the Tribune archives to prove me wrong.

    I can't imagine why this wouldn't have been covered. Just thinking about it makes me want to vomit.

  8. Maybe you can do a search by the case number:

    Raphael Valderrama DOB 02/17/75 Place of Birth: Il. Race: 4

    SSI 3*9-70-****

    Arrest: 4461 N. Pulaski

    Det Facil: 019 Rec’d Jan 4, 1997

    Case # 97CR038321S (Start of Felony Case)

    Court Date: 10/20/98

    Assigned Judge: Thomas Fitzgerald

    Charges: Murder/Other Forcible Felony; Pred Crim Sex Aslt.. Child;

    Agg Crim Sex Assault / Weapon; Agg Crim Sex Assault / Bodily;

    Agg Crim Sex Aslt / Threat; Agg Crim Sex Aslt / Victim; Agg Crim Assault / Felony; Crim Aex Assault / Force; Crim Sex Assault / Cant Con; Agg Unlawful Restr; Unlawful Restraint

    Per: Felony Case Master Screen

    Valderrama’s Address where murder took place 4035 N. Sheridan Road

  9. This story was in the Chicago Tribune:

    Chicago Tribune - Chicago, Ill.
    Date: Jan 7, 1997
    Start Page: 3

  10. From Chicago Tribune:

    "A North Side man accused of the sexual assault and murder of his 7-year-old half brother was being held in a psychiatric unit Monday after a scheduled court appearance in the case was canceled.

    Rafael Valderrama, 21, was being monitored around-the-clock at the Cook County Jail's Cermak Health Services psychiatric unit, said Cook County Sheriff's Department spokesman Bill Cunningham.

    "He might be a danger to himself or to another inmate," Cunningham said.

    Police said Valderrama had picked up the boy Friday at the home of their mother and was supposed to watch the younger boy at his apartment.

    According to investigators, after arriving at the apartment, in the 4000 block of North Sheridan Road, Valderrama sexually assaulted, and strangled the boy.

    Afterward, Valderrama allegedly put the boy's body in a plastic bag, and tossed it out of a third floor window of the apartment.

    The body was discovered Saturday morning by a watchman.

    Cook County Circuit Judge Robert Bertucci on Monday set a new court date for Jan. 27."

    Don't know if I can post this here, but I guess UU could take it off if not allowed.

  11. I feel like throwing up. I am a supporter of equal rights of every kind for law-abiding transsexuals, but "sex work" as I understand it is illegal.

    This piece of $%!* should die a slow and painful death for what he did, and the blood of the child is on the hands of everyone who knew about him and did not act to stop him.

  12. I also did a search in the Illinois sex offender registry. I didn't find him even though they do identify people who are currently incarcerated.

  13. There is also a Trib article, dated May 5, 1999, with the headline "NORTH SIDE MAN GETS LIFE SENTENCE FOR KILLING HIS 7-YEAR-OLD BROTHER"

  14. Dan Rozek of the Sun-Times did a story when it happened. Here is an excerpt. Again, I don't know about copyright protections. Maybe someone at the Sun-Times could send an official copy to UU.

    "The body of a 7-year-old Northwest Side boy was found stuffed in a garbage bag Saturday and his half brother was charged with the murder, police said.

    John Bolum had been sexually assaulted, strangled, wrapped in a plastic bag and dropped out a third-floor window into a garbage-strewn airshaft in the Sheridan Park Apartments where his half brother lived, police said.

    Sgt. Thomas Sappanos said Rafael Valderrama confessed to the slaying, which police believe occurred sometime Friday at Valderrama's apartment in the 4000 block of North Sheridan. Additional charges from the alleged assault of the boy, which police said led to his slaying, are likely to be filed, Sappanos said."

  15. "What part of our history's reinvented...and under rug swept?
    What part of your memory is selective and tends to forget?"

  16. The 1999 article referenced above reports that he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He had a 24 page confession. Prosecutor Frank Marek said it was "probably the most horrific crime [he had] ever seen."

    Here is an excerpt from the story.

    "Rafael Valderrama, 21, fought back tears as he apologized to his mother and "the others he had hurt" before Associate Judge Edward M. Fiala Jr. pronounced sentence. 'I realize that what I did was wrong," Valderrama said. "The crime I committed may have been sadistic, but it was the way I was living, the things I had seen growing up, that caused me to do such a thing.'"

  17. The facts of the crime are quite easy to verify. It's the other parts -- sex acts in full view of elementary school students, the Alderman's defense of sex workers, the refusal of police to enforce laws, violations of the open meetings act, replacement of elected community leaders by political staffers...

    All very serious allegations. Not unbelievable for those of us who've been in Uptown for a while, but with nothing but this blurb it's just a fairy tale unless supported by verifiable information.

    It's also not unbelievable the news didn't cover anything beyond the crime itself. It happens to this day.

  18. I would say that everything in this account is right-on with the Tribune stories that were later found. I don't doubt it one bit. Uptown has a way of burying bad history and quieting the dissenters.

  19. Obviously this man deserved to be punished and we really don't need to spend any more time condemning the act and the loss of that young boy's life. Although I don't know anything more about the case than was posted here, it appears to me that from the fact that he didn't get the death penalty, his own statement and the fact that mental health professionals testified on his behalf that this was a person who was very troubled and likely experienced some form of abuse himself.

    Although the powers-that-be clearly took the position that Valderrama shouldn't be subject to arrest or police harassment for his actions on the Disney School property, oftentimes these situations present the community with an opportunity to intervene and save the person from himself. Lord knows that there are resources in this community to help people get themselves off of destructive paths.

    When the powers-that-be decided to ignore the warning signs, (and I think performing sex acts during the day in plain view of others repeatedly over a period of months is a warning sign) they were complicit in destroying not only the life of John Bolum but also of Rafael Valderramma. That critique should trouble the conscience of people who champion the value of our most marginalized members of society.

  20. as a general statement about the coverage of crime in come nothing IS covered? its really sad and disturbing but we've had three shootings in about two weeks, two in a few days, and still there is NO media coverage! i watched abc7 news last night, the big thing was a 15 yo boy on the south side shot. is that what it takes for a spotlight on the crime here?! nobody gives a damn about uptown. some something like valderrama should not happen again in our community.

  21. And bringing this up is for? Who cares what happened in 1997 in Uptown. There is crime all over the City, not just Uptown.

    I guess this is Helen's fault as well as she is the ruler of Uptown.

  22. "Who cares what happened in 1997 in Uptown."

    I'll be the mother of Rafael Valderramma and John Bolum cares that one son is dead another is serving a life sentence! The people here are exploring the institutional factors which led to this crime so as to negate the powerful and prevailing assumption by the powers-that-be that crime here is random, inconsequential and overblown.

  23. This is the only account I could find that had details other than the crime itself or sentencing. It appears to the first article written after the boy was found. The man cited in the store was a long time Uptown resident, very active here until his home was broken into and wife assaulted.

    Chicago Tribune - January 5, 1997
    Author: Dionne Searcey and Teresa Puente, Tribune Staff Writers.
    A 7-year-old North Side boy reported missing by his mother was found early Saturday choked to death and wrapped in a plastic garbage bag.

    He had been thrown out an apartment window, allegedly by his half brother, police said

    Saturday evening, authorities charged the half brother, RafaelValderrama , 21, with one count of first-degree murder, said Cook County state's attorney's spokesman Bob Benjamin.

    The victim, John Bolum, also was sexually assaulted, said Belmont Area Police Sgt. Thomas Sappanos.

    Additional charges could be filed during a grand jury hearing, he said.

    The boy's body was found about 3 a.m. at the base of an air shaft at 4035 N. Sheridan Rd. in Chicago by Grand Central Area detectives investigating a missing person's report filed by Pauline Bolum, the mother of both the victim and the suspect.

    Police said the boy was tossed down the shaft and landed in an enclosed area where residents of the 98-unit building often throw out their trash.

    They found the boy after breaking down a nailed-in door--the only ground access to the area.

    The child suffered cranial cerebral injuries due to blunt trauma, said a spokesman with the Cook County medical examiner's office.

    The boy lived with his mother and two teenage siblings in a building in the 3800 block of West Eastwood Avenue, said the building's owner, Jose Paredes.

    Pauline Bolum rented a second-floor apartment above Paredes and had lived there about two years, he said.

    Police said that Valderrama confessed in a 28-page statement.

    They said he apparently went to the boy's house at 8:30 a.m. Friday for a scheduled visit.

    The two planned to go to the zoo or the museum, police said.

    Instead, police said, Valderrama took the boy back to his apartment at 4035 N. Sheridan, where they watched a movie.

    About 3 p.m., the boy was strangled with a cloth and thrown from the third-floor apartment, police said.

    They said they suspect the head trauma was caused by the fall.

    Bolum's mother filed a missing person's report with Albany Park police after the boy did not return home by late Friday.

    Paredes, 33, said the boy's mother told him the child was missing late Friday afternoon.

    "She was very nervous," said Paredes, who offered to let the mother use his telephone because she does not have one.

    Valderrama , who was questioned after police found the body, gave conflicting stories.

    "(Police) didn't like the story the (half brother) gave them about putting the boy on the `L,' " Belmont Area Youth Sgt. Jesse Jacobs said in reference to a statement by the half brother that he had sent the child home on the train.

    By 6:30 p.m. Saturday, police walked Valderrama in handcuffs from the questioning area to the Belmont Area lockup where he was being held.

    Neighbors were distraught by news that the boy who played with their children was killed.

    The child went by the nickname "John-John," and he often played hide-and-seek with Paredes' three young children.

    "He was an excellent boy," Paredes said.

    A next-door neighbor, Robert Buford, said his three daughters used to play with John-John.

    "They would ride their bikes up and down the street and play ball," said Buford, 35.

    "I don't understand what could've happened. He was just a regular little boy."

    He said Bolum called him Saturday afternoon to say she would be staying with relatives for a few days.

    Paredes often saw the half brother, but he never talked to him.

    "He was always going in and out of there," he said.

    The boy was found outside the building where rooms are rented by the week and month.

    Neighbors said the building is a blight where there is open drug dealing.

    "It is our biggest problem in the neighborhood," said Mike Carasotti, who owns the building next door.

    Neighbors said there have been slayings at the building before.

    They have voiced their concerns at community policing meetings, but said nothing has changed.

    "There have been four dead bodies there in the past year," Carasotti said.

    "This makes five."

    An area church, Christ Lutheran Evangelical Church, is accepting contributions for the family.

    They can be sent to the church at 3253 Wilson Ave., Chicago

  24. And then Sean Derrig came along and remodeled the building, wiping away forever Helen's dirty stain. And they have been best buddy's ever since.

    And then Sean took over the Wilson's Men's Club across from Truman where Shiller ran her vote fraud schemes and no city inspections ever inspected and he Sean sold the place for a $2 million profit several years later.

    And they lived happily ever after.

  25. "It's also not unbelievable the news didn't cover anything beyond the crime itself. It happens to this day."

    Yep. These are the true stories that local residents are craving. When these stories are never told or are lost, then we lose our ability to reflect upon our own history. I haven't been able to get my hands on any of the old pamphlets and community bulletins that local residents circulated here in years past, but with the advent of the internet UU is serving that same kind of purpose. Local residents can share their stories and their ideas...everything that makes up "their reality." This is important because clearly "official reality" (what is or is not documented in the mainstream media and in City Hall) is not exactly what we are experiencing.

  26. "To protect students, teachers were forced to hold coats and blankets to cover windows as children passed through the school’s glass-walled halls. Despite pleas from CAP’s Beat Facilitator, School Council Representatives, the school principle, and Buena Park Neighbors, the police refused to act. In community meetings, Alderwoman, Helen Shiller, demanded that the police respect transsexuals and sex industry workers rights and leave him alone. School representatives maintained that Valderrama’s behavior suggested that he was a threat to children and installed electric door locks and a “front-only” entrance policy at the school."

    It's been asked before. Can anyone substantiate any of this information rather than have it stated as hearsay?

  27. Talk to the locals who were there. There names are in the articles.

  28. I get your central point, national enquirer, but even the Tribune story from 1997 prints what is all too familiar around here when residents try to deal with a property in which crime and drug dealing occur:

    "They have voiced their concerns at community policing meetings, but said nothing has changed."

  29. If you doubt any alderbeast would support public sex I suggest you read the following post.

    A neighboring alderbeast supports public sex.

  30. Pirate, I respect you, but you're full of doo-doo on your public sex rant. I've personally witnessed on many occasions cars parked out in Lincoln Park, rocking back and forth with a half-dressed man popping up for a view followed by the head of a half-dressed woman. The police *never* stop to question them or to send them on their way with a chuckle...and they never do anything about couples laying out getting "close", either. I and let live. But if I am a lone man sitting out watching the Lake, I get asked for my ID with a demand to know what I'm doing there. Two MEN within 20 feet of each other are "suspicious" and need to be harassed by the police, while the gangbangers get away with drinking within view and drug dealers do business without being questioned.

    Gay men pay taxes just like you do...and they should be able to enjoy open space without harassment. Frankly, I don't give a damn if someone is cruising for sex around me or not, and if they want to get it on then and there, FINE--as long as they take reasonable precautions to keep it out of the view of casual strollers.

  31. Anonymous 9:24 or should I say Alderman Tunney,

    bite me. Defending public sex is stupid.

    I don't care if it is two men, two women, or one man(Hopefully me) and Angelina Jolie and Cameron Diaz. If the sex is in a public place then the people involved are WRONG. Sorry Angelina and Cameron we need to keep it inside.

    If you get your rocks off by having public sex I suggest you find another outlet. Might I suggest a bathhouse. Perhaps Craigslist casual encounters.

    Trying to turn this into a gay rights issue is stupid.

    Now I happen to believe gays should have all the same rights as anyone else including marriage and divorce. It's a question of basic human dignity. That also means the same responsibilities.

    Why not defend graffiti next?

    There are limits to freedom and those limits sometimes begin when your idea of "freedom" directly interferes with someone else.

    So keep your zipper up and take it inside.

    Thank you and May God Save the American Republic.

  32. My, my, my have we had quite a day on Uptown Update! A graffiti debate, a pro-Chamber person calling other posters "nobodys," a snarky insinuation that some politicians might be coming to Uptown to support the oldest profession, and now a discussion of public fornication in the park! This even outdoes yesterday when we had a troll, someone who invited the Chamber over to Aldi's to have their last cigarettes, and someone else who made a plea to the Cook County Republicans to start organizing in the 46th ward!

    Y'all are starting to feel like family to me---my big loud crazy family that I can't live with or without. I guess there is no denying that Uptown is diverse! I am enjoying the romp but am also a little worried that things may stop being so fun and informative. I think the whole point is for the conversation to keep flowing so that we can figure out things to do that might make Uptown a better place to live (like what Uptown CrimeFighter has decided to do.) Will it all end up like Thanksgiving at my house where Uncle IrishPirate must be seated in the chair farthest from Uncle Hugh? I hope not.

    PS--How come no one has weighed in with what happened in the community when the Valderramma murder was discovered? I was hoping for some context to the newspaper stories.

  33. I remember the murder and people were pissed off. As someone said the owner of the building sold it to Sean Derrig and he turned it into nice apartments for the annoying post college crowd. It is the building just north and across the street from Howard Brown.

    I am not aware of any of the suggestions of public sex on school grounds. I either forgot or never knew that.

    Someone else will have to speak to that. I don't find the story of that unbelievable or the purported reaction of Alderbeast Shiller and others. That is just how things were and to an extent are around here.

  34. Illinois Dept. of Corrections has info on him--

  35. This is a very interesting and sad case. I remember reading about it in the Tribune when it happened, however, the story said nothing about him being a transsexual prostitute performing acts in plain view. I wonder about the motivation for this crime-one article mentioned his mother was estranged, could he have been jealous of the attention his mother showered on his younger, half-brother? What on earth could possess someone to do that to anyone, let alone a young child!

  36. Rafael was indeed a troubled young man growing up. This crime doesn't surprise me one bit. Hopefully he rots in jail for these crimes he committed against this young defenseless child. I grew up with Rafael in Uptown where he lived with his dad on Dover st. I remember him acting funny in fifth grade at stockton school kinda in a sexual manner with another student. And that student beat his that same day. After that he became a target to all of us. I guess that's when he distanced himself from everyone. I guess none of us excepted his way of being. I remember his father having another family with 3 little sisters he had when they lived on Dover st. Thank God nothing happened to them, but who knows what the hell was going through his mind. I pray to God not to ever forgive him for these devilish acts snd thoughts that he might still carry inside of him... R.I.P lil John john. Nearly 20 years now, may you rest in peace.