Hundreds gathered in an Oak Lawn park on Good Friday evening to honor the memory of a young mother who liked to plan elaborate Easter egg hunts for her two young sons.
Michelle Peters, 30, one month after police found her fatally shot in the face in the Chicago Heights home that she shared with her boyfriend and the father of her boys, Georgie, 7, and Alex, 15 months.
Police questioned Peters’ 32-year-old boyfriend but he was eventually released without being charged. Chicago Heights police confirmed the death investigation is still open.
Sobbing through her speech at the vigil, Peters' cousin, Tiffany Byrne said that police detectives asked her if she ever saw signs of Peters being physically abused.
“I have not, although I heard verbal abuse,” Byrne alleged.
Peters’ family members assert that she suffered in silence after years of verbal abuse by her boyfriend. Those close to the young mother speculate she may have been too embarrassed to reach out for help.
“We’re here for justice for Michele and her boys, and to bring awareness to domestic violence,” Byrne said. “I keep losing my voice because I speak for so many, Michele, her boys and other women who suffer domestic violence.”
Since Peters’ death, her mother and cousin claim they have been denied visits with her boys, who were at home asleep the night of the shooting. Both boys are living with their father’s sisters; Georgie was sent out of state after shooting. Neither attended their mother's funeral, according to family memebrs.
Michele’s mother, Catherine Peters, has retained a lawyer specializing in grandparents’ visitation rights.
“I talked eight minutes’ long distance on the phone with the Georgie, and spent an hour with the baby [since the shooting],” Catherine told the crowd. “That’s unacceptable.”
Peters grew up in Hometown and had strong ties to the area. At the time of her death, Catherine Peters said her daughter was planning to leave to her boyfriend and move back to Hometown with her sons.
The vigil was held near the softball field in where Peters played in a park district softball league. Her teammates recalled how she hated her middle name—Vivian—but liked the fact that her initials spelled “MVP.”
Supporters listened to Peters' favorite songs pumped over amplifiers, as they lit candles and released bunches of pink balloons. Erin Tucker of Oak Lawn, friends with Peters since 7th grade, is still waiting for answers surrouding her death.
"Michele and I always were close," Tucker said. "I came to support the family, we have a strong connection. We all want to see justice. I don't want anyone to ever experience this.
Catherine Peters said that her daughter was planning to leave her boyfriend and move back to Hometown with her sons at the time of her death.
No arrests have been made, but Peters’ mother has maintained regular contact with Cook County prosecutors and police. Police are said to be waiting for the state crime lab results of forensic evidence.
“The gloves are off,” Catherine Peters said. “I want justice for Michele and her boys.
Chicago Heights Patch editor Christopher Paicley and Mary Compton contributed to this report.