On the evening of October 31, 1994, Rene Olubunmi Rondeau. Renee was walking home in her own little neighborhood, when two drug addicts or better known as recidivist criminals saw her. Renee did not know the pair, but they were looking for money to help fuel their drug problem.
The drug addicts were a woman and a man. The woman appeared to be a prostitute and be around 28 years old. While the man was what is known as a recidivist criminal as he committed 52 crimes prior to murdering Renee. The man appeared to be around 34 years old. This man just finished his parole sentenced three months prior to killing Renee.
Renee was only 29 years old at the time of her murder.
About Renee Rondeau
Renee Rondeau was born to Elaine and Gordon Rondeau in Africa. Her parents were a part of the Peace Corps at the time of her birth. Renee would ultimately grow up in Washington, D.C., Georgia, and Germany. Renee would study in Sorbonne situated in Paris and even taught English to those in Japan.
At the time of her death, Renee was living in Chicago where she was employed with the Northbrook consulting firm.
Investigation and Case
Renee Rondeau would be found strangled to death in her bathroom in her Lakeview apartment. Renee was only 29 years old at the time of her murder.
The local authorities only had one simple lead, which had to do with her bank card. Renee’s bank card was stolen, however, after her death, it would be used at the South Side cash machine.
It took the local authorities over five months and help from a prime witness who saw this unknown man using Renee’s bank card to help solve the case of who murdered Renee Rondeau.
It took the local authorities’ months prior to being able to file robbery and murder charges against a woman and man who picked out Renee at random as she was walking back to her home in from being at the neighborhood health club around 8 pm on October 31, 1994.
The local authorities stated that the two suspects would park their car and stalk Renee on foot until they got to her building which was on the 400 block of West Barry Street. This is when the pair would overpower her and force her into her second-floor apartment. Here is where they would ultimately rob her and when Renee would try to free herself, they would choke along with strangle her with one of her belts according to the local authorities.
Renee’s death would gain attention because it was an unsolved gruesome killing in a neighborhood that did not have a high murder rate, but also because her killing went unnoticed for a short while before it became one big crusade.
The night of that dreadful Halloween in 1994, the news coverage was covering the plane crash that took place in Indiana where it was responsible for at least 68 people dying. It was not until a week or so later when Renee’s neighborhood would learn about the gruesome crime that took place on Halloween night.
Renee’s parents resided in Marietta, Georgia would then start their long-distance telephone and letter-writing campaign to many government officials and politicians, this would include Richard Daley, the mayor. Her parents would push to improve the building security along with having effective neighborhood watch programs. Her parents would even go as far as to ask about why does the United States have such a high murder rate.
Her parents would soon gain traction and not only have a great group of friends, but many supporters that backed them up. Her parents and supports were planning for a few weeks to hold a memorial service and procession on April 29 at 11 am in the morning. This event would take place right in front of Renee’s residence.
Despite any arrests, the event was still planned to go on. It was not until just before the service when prosecutors would leak the names of those who have been arrested in the death of Renee Rondeau. The two that were arrested were Andre Griggs, 31 and Benita Johnson, 28. The pair was out on that fateful Halloween night looking to rob someone, so they would have money to purchase more and more drugs to fuel their drug addiction.
According to a statement from Benita Johnson, which was ultimately read by Ginger Buchmiller, Assistant State’s attorney, Griggs was armed with his .357 revolver, which is what he used to hold up a man on the West Side and stole this man’s $8. Then the pair would drive in Benita’s car up to the North Side of town to locate another victim.
This is when they found Renee Rondeau. They would follow Renee on foot to her apartment. As Renee would be putting in her key to the building’s outside door, Renee would scream as Griggs punished her and then he would hold his hand over Renee’s mouth.
Then Griggs would walk her up to Renee’s second-floor apartment where Griggs would steal Renee’s gold chain and empty out Renee’s purse. When Griggs would empty out Renee’s purse, he would find her bank card and $30 cash.
At some point during this interaction, Renee would be required to give Griggs her personal identification number (PIN) to her bank card.
Griggs then would hand over his gun to Johnson to keep Renee in line, while he went further into Renee’s apartment to find and take any other valuables.
When Griggs left the room, this is when Renee tried to get up and flee the scene, but Johnson was not going to allow that to happen. The two women would struggle with one another until Griggs came up right behind Renee and grabbed her at the neck and the two would fall to the floor.
Griggs when would be the one responsible for choking out Renee until she was unconscious only to drag her to Renee’s bed.
This is when Johnson noticed that Renee still was not completely dead and that is when Griggs would place one of Renee’s belts around her neck to strangle her until she was officially dead.
Griggs would then drag Renee’s dead body to the bathroom, so he can finish going through her things in her apartment.
This is when the two suspects would leave with Renee’s purse, her green sweater, her gym bag, along with a gold necklace that Griggs located in Renee’s bedroom.
After the two left, Griggs would then stop at one of the cash machines on South King Drive around 11:45 pm. This is where Griggs was able to withdrawal $300. Griggs would then give Renee’s purse to Johnson along with the sweater, gym bag, and cash.
Richard Stevens Police Lieutenant would state that investigators were unable to identify Griggs from the cash transactions as the security camera at that certain cash machine was malfunctioning.
But Stevens did say that he had a customer at that cash machine that was able to provide a description of the man that he saw that night for the police to make a composite sketch up to circulate to the community.
Stevens would go on to say that his detectives would spend months scouting out the neighborhood where the bank was in because they thought the suspect lived within that neighborhood. However, those contacts would eventually lead him to an unknown informant who was able to give the detectives vital pieces of information that they were able to use to arrest both Johnson and Griggs.
Stevens would not elaborate on this subject, but Renee’s mother, Elaine stated that investigators let her know that the police were aided with a $10,000 reward which was offered by family and friends.
The local authorities would later state that Johnson and Griggs both had prior criminal records as well. Griggs was in jail and served about 30 months for a burglary charged that happened in the mid-1980wss and he served another 9 months in the past year for distribution of a controlled substance. That his last jail stint ended just three months before he murdered Renee Rondeau.
While on the other hand, Johnson is currently sitting in the Cook County Jail on possession of a controlled substance charge.
However, both Griggs and Johnson are both in jail right now without bail on both robbery and murder charges.
Griggs, the convicted felon who finally admitted he was indeed looking for someone to rob to get a few dollars for drugs, was officially convicted in the murder of Renee Rondeau.
The family of Renee Rondeau all wept and hugged one another as John Moran, the Criminal Court Judge shared the guilty verdict after the seven-day bench trial.
Andre Griggs, 33 would be wiping his face as he heard the guilty verdict come from the mouth of John Moran. Moran would tell Griggs the most damning piece of evidence in this entire trial was your confession, as it had details only the killer would truly know.
Benita Johnson, 30, also known as Griggs’ co-defendant would also be found guilty in front of a jury as well. Both Johnson and Griggs would be convicted of armed robbery, home invasion, and murder of Renee Rondeau.
Maureen Fedrick and David Gaughan, Assistant Cook County State’s Attorneys stated that they would actively go for the death penalty in this case because the murder was committed by a forcible felony.
Renee, 29 was stalked on foot by both Griggs and Johnson when she was walking to her apartment from her neighborhood health club on West Barry Avenue on the evening of October 31, 1994.
Griggs would then ultimately confess to confronting Renee as she was putting her key into her buildings lock door and when she screamed, he would punch her in the face and force her up to her apartment on the second floor.
Then according to Grigg’s confession is that he would force Renee to give him her bank card along with her personal identification number (PIN). Then he would tell Johnson to watch over Renee as he would ransack the rest of her home, but when Renee would try to flee the scene, her and Johnson would struggle. And this is when Griggs would then come up right behind Renee and choke her out.
Johnson would soon realize that Renee was not dead as Griggs was dragging her into her bedroom and this is where Griggs would strangle her to death.
Then the pair would flee the scene and stop at a local cash machine at King Drive where they would take out $300 from Renee’s checking account. However, at this cash machine, the security camera was not in working order, but a customer was able to give police a brief description of what the suspect looked like.
It would not be until months later until the cops found out it was Griggs who they were looking for.
Just outside of Judge Moran’s courtroom Renee’s parents stated that they would never get closure for what happened to their daughter unless the judge made sure that both Johnson and Griggs would never step foot outside of prison again.
Renee’s parents soon then formed many crime awareness groups with several objectives, but mainly focusing on the early release education for those convicted felons.