This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
Jorge Anacleto was industrious and persistent, taking advantage of each day with the intention of building his future.
He was a certified nurse, a Spanish interpreter for courts and hospitals, and a psychology student at Northwestern University in Chicago.
On January 24, 2007, Jorge came home from work. He was working on his car behind his Cicero, Illinois home when shots rang out. Police believe the shooting was possibly gang-related.
Jorge Anacleto was just 20 years old, leaving behind a two-year-old daughter.
Growing up, Jorge loved watching crime movies, playing basketball, and cheering on the Cubs. He was so personable. Jorge could walk into a room full of strangers and leave with brand new friends.
“He was so cheerful, and happy, and just excited about life and where it was going to take him,” Jorge’s cousin Janet Anacleto recalled.
When he was a teenager, Jorge became involved with local gangs. He was trying to leave that path behind him when he was killed.
“He was trying to change his lifestyle for his daughter,” Nancy Anacleto, Jorge’s younger sister, stated. “He wanted to show her that she didn’t have to go down the wrong path.”
Jorge was dedicated to serving the Hispanic community through his job as an interpreter. He wanted to help bridge the gap between English and Spanish speakers.
Janet was endlessly impressed at his commitment to helping others even while facing his own difficult times.
“I remember having a conversation with him about that – saying how proud we were of him and the steps he was taking for his future, and he was just so proud of himself as well,” she recalled. “That was in the later years shortly before he passed away.”
In the years prior to his murder, Jorge went through two events that would change the rest of his life.
In the summer of 2004, Jorge was struck by a car. The incident would leave him paralyzed on the left side of his body. A few months later, his daughter was born.
By 2007, Jorge was beginning to walk again with the assistance of a cane. Despite the physical and emotional hardship, Jorge continued to work and further his education.
“That’s what I loved about him. It wasn’t an obstacle for him, it was just a bump in the road, and he kept on going and trying to do better for himself and for his daughter,” Nancy said.
The Anacleto family came together more than ever after Jorge was struck by that car. They all realized that each moment together is a precious one.
After the injury, Nancy decided that she would check in on him every day.
“Never again will I not say goodbye, have a good day, even if we were mad. He would get mad at me, and I would still say, ‘You know what? You still need to give me the hug of the day and then you can be on your way,’” she said with a laugh.
The morning of Jorge’s death, Nancy broke her habit of playfully waking him up, deciding to let him sleep while she got ready and left for school. The day before was the last time they spoke.
She says it’s one of her biggest regrets.
Jorge was more than just an older brother to Nancy, who was 17 at the time of his death. He showed her the importance of recognizing her own inner power.
“He always encouraged me to do more and just keep going. It was really because of him that I wanted to keep going to school,” she recalled.
Jorge was incredibly proud of his family name and his Mexican heritage. He took on a father figure role for Nancy, keeping trouble as far away from his family as possible – a rarity in a community where gang involvement tended to expand not just through the streets, but into households.
In a September 14, 2007, Chicago Tribune article, Dan Profit, the city spokesperson at the time, stated that there were twenty-five to thirty known gangs in Cicero that year. Many of which were known to recruit young, impressionable boys.
Profit explained how organized crime created a code of silence among those living in this suburb, which borders some of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods. A high number of crimes go unsolved partially because of the citizens’ reluctance to come forward with information.
According to the Chicago Tribune, there were 26 gang-related shootings and six gang-related homicides in Cicero in 2007.
Jorge put his family first. He always stopped by his cousin’s house to visit. That wasn’t common for a typical teenage boy.
Jorge’s kind heart persisted even through his death. He had registered to be an organ donor, allowing him to help countless people he would never meet.
“What helped me was that, even through his passing, he was able to help people,” Janet said. “It’s one of those bittersweet kinds of things. Even through his death, he lived on.”
Today, even after so many years since his murder, Jorge’s case remains unsolved. The Cicero Police Department still has his case marked as an ongoing investigation.
Nancy still lives in Cicero, just a few blocks away from the childhood home she and Jorge grew up in. She is constantly reminded that her children will never get to meet Jorge.
As Jorge taught his sister: mistakes do not define a person, and everyone deserves second chances. Jorge is not defined by his mistakes, and his 20 years of valuable experiences warrant remembrance beyond the circumstances of his death.
“He was all-around good,” Nancy said.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Jorge Anacleto, please call the Cicero Police Department at (708) 652-2130.
Research & Impact
Working with survivors will reveal many commonalities shared throughout the community. Survivors continue to share with Project: Cold Case the struggle to maintain their loved one’s case while managing the weight of the grief for themselves. The loss of a loved one can often lead to familial fractures, furthering the weight that survivors carry.
Family members can often differ on their outlook on the case circumstances, how to manage one’s grief, and even if the unsolved nature of the case should be promoted whatsoever. Survivors can often feel outcast for trying to further the investigation of the case.
Because of that, it’s important for survivors to seek out support groups that center around unsolved murders. Sitting in a group of fellow survivors who are walking a similar path can be incredibly beneficial.
Project: Cold Case hosts a monthly survivor support group. Attendees often share ideas and suggestions on how to promote the case or even build relationships with investigators. Visit projectcoldcase.org/support to learn more about joining future support groups.
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