Griffith Police Chief Greg Mance acknowledged that through tips received by the public, several people were viewed as possible suspects early in the murder investigation of former Griffith businesswoman, 76 year-old, Mary Austgen. Police Chief Mance said one of those suspects the same man appearing in the surveillance photos released shortly after the crime, was identified as 57 year-old Ralph Perez Martinez of south suburban Alsip, Illinois. Mance said with additional publicity about the case Martinez became the main suspect, which lead to a search warrant of his residence and subsequent arrest and charges.
The Lake County Prosecutor's office this afternoon returned charges of Murder, Robbery and Criminal Confinement against Martinez for "acts that occurred Mary Austgen during the evening hours of march 28th, 2013."
Chief Mance revealed that the suspect, a mechanic by trade, had been a past tenant at property owned by Austgen in the 800 block of E. Main Street in Griffith. Meanwhile, Mance said the investigation is no longer pursuing information about the black sedan seen other security photos picking up the suspect at the Majestic Star Casino, as the driver has cooperated with police and is no longer a person of interest in the investigation.
The victim's son, Jeff Austgen spoke at the press conference saying the family was "elated" that the suspect was in custody. But Austgen also said that the family had gone through a lot emotions including "glad he's (the suspect) apprehended" and "sad the next minute" because "it doesn't change what has happened." He also expressed the families appreciation, thanking, "the press, people out there that have extended offers to us to help us anyway they can. It's been great." He added, "it really make think there are still good people out there."
Mance said investigators are still seeking a motive in the case and the missing two rings the victim reportedly was wearing the night of her murder and photos of which have been featured by the media. Chief Mance asks that if anyone has information about the movements and actions of Martinez in the days before and after the murder of Mary Austgen, and in particular the two rings taken, are asked to contact the Griffith Police Department's non-emergency line; 219 924-3141, the Griffith Police Tip Hotline 219 922-3085 or Gary Police Detective, Lorenzo Davis at 219 881-4738.
Griffith Police Chief, Greg Mance at today's press conference at Griffith Town Hall
Murder victim's son, Jeff Austgen expresses the family's appreciation of the media and public for making the suspect's arrest possible
Griffith Police Chief, Greg Mance (center), victim's son, Jeff Austgen (left) among investigators at today's press conference announcing the arrest on three charges including murder of their main suspect, Ralph Perez Martinez
The murder investigation's prime suspect, 57 year-old, Ralph Perez Martinez of Alsip, Illinois seen in rear seat leaving the Griffith Police Station and being transported to Lake County Jail.
(photos courtesy of Jay Stevens)
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