Crime & Courts

Kane County man charged with murder of Wheeling mother

A 26-year-old Pingree Grove man has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of a Wheeling woman found strangled in her apartment late Tuesday, two days before her missing 1-year-old daughter was also found dead in a retention pond in northwest Indiana.

Ahmeel Fowler, the person of interest in the case who was located in Springfield, Missouri, late Wednesday, was arrested Friday on a warrant approved by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

More charges are anticipated as the case progresses, Wheeling police said.

Meanwhile, autopsy results remained pending Friday for 1-year-old Jaclyn “Angel” Dobbs.

Construction workers spotted the girl’s body in a pond beside an exit ramp at the I-80 and Kennedy Avenue interchange near Hammond Thursday and immediately called authorities to retrieve it, according to Indiana State Police.

Though the body was soon positively identified as that of the missing toddler, the cause and manner of death were not immediately determined by an autopsy the Lake County, Indiana, coroner’s office began Friday morning.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office has ruled the death of the girl’s mother, 21-year-old Ja’nya Murphy, to be a homicide caused by strangulation and asphyxiation.

Murphy’s body and her daughter’s absence were discovered by Wheeling police late Tuesday during a well-being check of her apartment on Inland Drive requested by family members concerned by their inability to reach her and her unexplained absence from her retail job that day.

Wheeling police reported Thursday that a person of interest in the case -- now identified as Fowler -- had been located.

Fowler, who reportedly had been in a relationship with Murphy, was found in Missouri along with the 2020 Dodge Grand Caravan in which police believe Jaclyn had been riding at some point since Tuesday, Wheeling Deputy Police Chief Al Steffen said.

Fowler is not the father of Jaclyn, nor was he someone who lived with the mother and daughter, Steffen said.

While police initially declined to say how investigators believe Murphy died, they said evidence at the scene made clear that there was an assault. Steffen said he believes the case will be built on forensic evidence.

Murphy’s family members filed a missing persons report at 10:22 p.m. Tuesday after becoming concerned that she hadn’t shown up at her job at a store and hadn’t been in contact with relatives since Monday night.

Murphy grew up in Lincolnshire and was a 2018 graduate of Stevenson High School.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Wheeling Police Department at (847) 459-2632, or call 911.

GoFundMe drive was created Friday by a friend of Murphy, Ronnie Allan, to raise $50,000 to help her grieving family with funeral expenses for mother and daughter.

“Ja’nya was a co-worker of mine and our families are very close,” Allan wrote on the fundraiser’s page. “Ja’nya was a very hardworking, kind, genuine young lady. Angel was very special. She was full of energy and had an amazing personality. She would brighten up a room. This horrible incident should’ve never happened, and everyone that knows them is still in disbelief. Please help this family.”

The fundraiser had received $4,000 by Friday evening.