Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Investigators officially closed the books Tuesday on shootings last year in rural Illinois and Indiana after DNA evidence helped show a man killed in a suburban Chicago robbery attempt months later was the shooter.

For months, authorities called Gary Amaya, 48, of Rankin, Ill., a suspect in the Oct. 5, 2010, shootings that left one dead and two injured. Amaya was killed in December with his own gun during what police said was an attempted robbery of a tanning salon in suburban Chicago.

Ballistic tests showed the handgun in the robbery attempt matched one used in the rural Illinois and Indiana. But authorities wanted to await DNA testing, including some on handwriting samples.

"In our guts, we felt that Amaya was the responsible party," said Will County Sheriff's Deputy Chief Ken Kaupas said.

He said investigators met last week with the Will County state's attorney's office and police in Lake County, Indiana, to close the case. He said DNA tests weren't conclusive, but none of the tests could rule out Amaya. He said DNA evidence in a national registry had also not shown a match anywhere since Amaya's death.

Tests were conducted on a handwriting samples from a piece of paper Amaya allegedly gave to a victim before the shootings. An expert said the tests couldn't rule out Amaya as the writer.

"The families impacted by this have some closure," Kaupas said. "It was such a senseless crime, it's hard to get any sense of satisfaction."

The shootings began the morning of Oct. 5 at a rural construction site in Illinois. The gunman shot and killed Rolando Alonso, 45, of Hammond, Ind., and wounded Joshua Garza, a 19-year-old from Dyer, Ind. Later, farmer Keith Dahl, 64, was wounded near Lowell, Ind.

The case had attracted national attention from the beginning because of some bizarre details. For example, the gunman was initially dubbed the "honeybee shooter" because he allegedly talked to at least one victim about beekeeping.

Then authorities wrongly accused police officer Brian Dorian cop in the shootings. He was cleared after investigators said forensic computer evidence showed he was at home when one of the shootings happened.

Jason McDaniel, a customer at the L.A. Tan in Orland Park allegedly robbed by Amaya, managed to grab the handgun from him before shooting him twice. Salon managers called McDaniel a hero and gave him a cash reward and free tanning for life.


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