CHICAGO — Jamie Santos was born to Pete and Dottie Santos on June 14, 1964.
In October 1991, Santos was 27, single, and lived alone with her two cats in an apartment in Wheeling, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago in Cook County.
She was close to her family and cooked dinner for her parents once a week. Santos had a sister Laurie Santos, who was also her best friend.
Santos was a tough-as-nails woman who did not take any crap from people. She worked as an exotic dancer under the stage name Sasha and earned several hundred dollars a week dancing. She performed at bachelor parties, private parties, and as a showgirl in a bar, according to a 1991 Chicago Tribune article. It was the money that kept her working, not the dancing. Santos was looking for a new line of work and talked about college.
”But she liked a job where she could call the shots,” said her mother, Dottie. ”She wasn’t a 9-to-5 kid.”
Dancing gave her freedom, and it paid well.
”It was hard for her to give up that kind of money,” said her father, Pete. ”Jamie enjoyed her money. She made trips to Jamaica, she drove a $25,000 car, she loved to shop. Her theory was a woman’s place was in the mall.”
Sadly, Santos never stopped dancing; someone murdered her before she ever got the chance.
On Monday, October 28, 1991, an unidentified man called 911 at 11:31 a.m.
Listen to the call:
Paramedics arrived at 1765 Stonehedge Court at 11:36 a.m., followed by the Wheeling Police. The entrance door was closed but unlocked. There were no signs of a struggle or forced entry. Santos was on her bedroom floor, clad only in a knee-length, tie-dyed nightshirt and underwear, unconscious but alive. Paramedics rushed her to Holy Family Hospital in Des Plaines, but it was too late. Santos was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The cause of death was suffocation. An object had been placed over her nose and mouth. Santos put up little resistance as there were no defensive wounds on her body. No drugs were found in her system, and she had not been sexually assaulted. There were no significant bruises to her internal organs; however, some minor bruises around her face, neck, and mouth.
The week before the murder was a typical one for Santos. On Tuesday, Oct. 22nd, she had her hair done by an old school friend, Linda Vasquez.
”But she wasn’t her usual self,” Vasquez said.
”Usually, when she walked into a room, she kind of bounced in, laughing, telling jokes, doing something. But she was kind of quiet. A little on the sad side. I had a strange feeling about it.”
Later that night, Santos had her parents over for dinner, and she seemed fine.
On Friday, Oct. 25th, she spent time with her sister. They went out to eat, played some pool, and then went to a favorite hangout until three or four in the morning. Laurie Santos said her sister acted normal.
The next day, Santos had three parties for work. Her driver informed the police that everything went fine and nothing unusual happened at any of them. She went out briefly on Sunday and told a friend she would rent movies and stay home.
Nothing suggested Santos was in fear of her life or that anyone had been harassing her.
The 911 call was made from a public payphone in a shopping center located at Buffalo Grove Road and Dundee Road, just a few blocks from Santos’s home. The caller has never come forward to reveal his identity.
At first, investigators wondered if the caller had killed Santos. What they did know was that the caller knew her exact address and had been in the apartment before the call because he said, ”There’s one young woman in there who’s not breathing. She’s turning blue,” he said.
Santos most likely knew her killer because there were no signs of forced entry. Police believe she willingly let the killer into her home. They said her killer might have been female.
Authorities do not believe Santos’s profession and murder are connected. She made it a rule never to date anyone from work. Additionally, when she did date, she preferred men in their 20s or 30s. To the police, the caller sounded like he was in his 40s.
There were a few promising leads, but they led nowhere—the call for one. Another was a videotape of a man next to the phone where the call was made.
However, police interviewed and cleared him of any involvement. There were fingerprints in Santos’s apartment but no one to match them to at the time. After six months, the leads went cold.
”What’s really unusual is that in all this time, nobody has called to say that they’ve heard anything,” said J. Michael Hermes, deputy chief of the Wheeling police. ”It’s like everything has dried up.”
Was this a robbery gone wrong? Exotic dancers make a lot of money. Santos kept her money in a deposit envelope in her apartment. That envelope disappeared and was never found.
A few weeks before her murder, Santos told a friend she was interested in buying a gun, but her family did not believe she was in any trouble.
”She wasn’t scared of anybody,” said her mother. ”As far as her business went, she had no problems. She worked for legit businesses. If she found out they weren’t legit or they were sleazy, she got out of them. And there were several like that. There are some real creeps in that business.”
The FBI and Chicago police interviewed more than 100 people connected with the case. Fifteen people took lie detector tests, and investigators questioned at least five people considered suspects.
”This investigation leads us to believe the person who called 911 on Oct. 28, 1991, was not the person responsible for Jamie’s death,” Then-Wheeling Deputy Police Chief Michael Hermes said.
”The caller may have vital information leading to the identity of the person responsible,” Hermes said. ”While we understand the possible reluctance of this person to be identified, we are appealing to the 911 caller to contact us and provide any information he might have.”
No one has ever been arrested for the murder of Santos.
Santos’ case appeared in Season 9 of Unsolved Mysteries with Robert Stack. The show said there were signs of a struggle, but all news reports and Wheeling Police said there was not. The show also mentioned Santos’s head was lying on a pillow. No reports stated this either. UM said the object placed over Santos’s nose and mouth to suffocate her was a pillow.
If you feel you know the caller’s identity or have any information leading to the arrest of Jamie Santos’ killer, please call the Wheeling Police Department at 847-459-2632 or email them.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I lived only about 15 miles from Jamie when this crime happened, but I do not recall it at all. Too many murders occur in the Chicagoland area each year. This case is bizarre, to say the least.
Why kill Jamie Santos? What was the motive? Was the killer male or female? I don’t believe this was a random attack.
Who is the mystery caller? We know he was in her apartment. Why hasn’t he ever come forward? It could be out of fear because the case is unsolved, he didn’t want to get involved, or he’s the killer. How did police determine he was not the killer? I’m sure the killer probably would not have called for help, but maybe he felt instant remorse. It’s rare, but it does happen.
How is it possible that no one saw this man make the call? It was close to noon on a Monday and in a shopping center. There would have been people everywhere at this time.
I think he sort of sounds like he’s in his 40s, but I personally believe he was younger. Was she dating anyone at the time? Who had she stopped dating before her murder?
The murder happened in an apartment complex, but early reports said no one saw or heard anything unusual. Did her killer reside there, too? Police said the killer was familiar with the area because he corrected the 911 operator when she said “Stonehenge” instead of “Stonehedge.”
Her killer could very well be someone she had danced for. Just because she didn’t date anyone from work doesn’t mean a customer wasn’t obsessed with her. However, if that were the case, I’m sure the killer would have raped her. Police thought the killer might have been female. This does make sense. It would explain why there was no sexual assault, and Jamie probably would have opened the door to a female, especially one she knew.
What doesn’t make sense to me is that Jamie, as far as I can see, was not tied up when she was found. So, how did the killer get her to be complicit when suffocating her? Were there two people in the apartment? One to hold her down, the other to suffocate her? She put up little resistance, according to police. If someone is trying to suffocate you and you’re conscious, you’re going to fight back. That’s just a normal response. Was she sleeping when it occurred? Jamie was dressed as if she had been preparing to go to bed or was already in bed when attacked. We know she was not drugged because no drugs were found in her system, but she could not have been asleep because police believe she let her killer into her home.
I think there was more going on with Jamie than she let anyone know. I think she wanted to buy a gun to protect herself for reasons we may never know. Her friend, Linda Vasquez, said that Jamie was not her usual self when Linda did her hair the previous Tuesday. What was bothering her, and why didn’t she tell someone?
This case makes no sense.
Source: Chicago Tribune