In this weekly series, Herald-News senior reporter Brian Stanley looks back at some of the most notorious crimes in the area’s history. Twenty four years ago this week, a teenage bank teller was shot to death in Joliet during her lunch break.
Danielle McTee’s friends and teachers described her as a shy and quiet girl with a passion for poetry.
Though the young woman from Minooka had also been on the tae kwon do and cross country teams at the Illinois Math and Science Academy. In August 1993, Danielle McTee, 18, was working as a teller at the First National Bank of Joliet on Midland Avenue – a summer job she’d be leaving in a few weeks to attend Williams College in Massachusetts as an English major.
Co-workers said it was common during the summer of 1993 to see Danielle take a book of poetry and eat her lunch under some trees directly across the street at St. Edward the Martyr Episcopal Church. On Aug. 10, Danielle spent the morning scanning signatures at a table in the basement before she took a break about 12:30 p.m. and walked across the street.
Because she’d been working by herself, it wasn’t until three hours later that other employees realized she hadn’t come back. A security guard went over to the church and walked around to the far side where a steep concrete staircase leads to a basement door. Danielle’s body was lying face down at the bottom of the 13 steps. She’d been shot once in the back of the neck. Police believed she was killed where her body was found.
Her father arrived at the bank a short time later to give his daughter a ride home.
“He was so in shock, I don’t think her family could comprehend what had happened,” Detective Richard Goepper later told The Herald-News . “This was a girl with such a bright future. She didn’t have any enemies. She didn’t have anything to do with gangs or drugs.”
Goepper called McTee “the most innocent victim I ever saw.”
The community was shocked by the young woman’s slaying and the investigation became the Joliet Police Department’s top priority for the next six months. The police report encompassed 600 pages before an arrest was made.
Jason Feltus, a then-20-year-old gang member had bragged about the killing to someone who went on to tell the police. Other gang members were brought in for questioning and they began admitting they had been in a car that drove by when Danielle crossed the street. Thinking she’d just cashed a check, one of them decided she’d be a good choice to rob and told the others to wait while he walked over to her.
But after sitting in jail for eight months, Feltus was released after four witnesses recanted their statements to investigators. A fifth gang member was suspected of fabricating his story to obtain reward money and implicate an enemy. Prosecutors had decided they could not get a conviction against Feltus without more evidence.
Feltus later did state time on an unrelated felony weapons charge and three counts of aggravated battery, and has arrests in Will County through 2009. Illinois Department of Corrections records list him as a free man.
Though the McTee homicide has been regularly reviewed by Joliet police, modern technology has not provided enough links to any suspect and the investigation remains a cold case.
Anyone who can change that is asked to call police at 815-724-3020 or anonymously call CrimeStoppers at 800-323-6734. Rewards of up to $30,000 have been offered for information leading to a conviction in the murder of Danielle McTee.