ELWOOD, IL —A 38-year-old Joliet man had his bail set at $5 million in connection with Friday’s homicide of a 30-year-old Shorewood man at the CenterPoint Intermodal Center in Elwood. Derrell Draper was taken into custody by Elwood police and booked into the Will County Jail around 10:30 p.m. Saturday and charged with one count of first-degree murder.
On Sunday evening, Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes told Patch that homicide victim Robert Bigger of Shorewood and Draper were coworkers at the Home Depot warehouse at CenterPoint and both men had just finished their shift and left work around 3 a.m.
Draper pulled up next to Bigger’s Chevy Impala while Bigger was driving home on Baseline Road and fatally shot him, the chief said.
“We’re confident we got the right guy,” Hayes told Joliet Patch Sunday evening. “This is kind of a big incident for the Will County area, so it’s all hands on deck.”
Hayes told Patch he spent Sunday afternoon meeting with the victim’s family. He said Bigger had lived in the Shorewood and Joliet area for many years.
“It’s clear to me the family is devastated, and they are going through a very difficult time, so I don’t want to say more out of respect to their privacy.”
Hayes said that a gun was recovered from the murder defendant. Draper was captured on Saturday at his girlfriend’s house on West 87th Street in Justice, Hayes said.
The Joliet man was taken to the Will County Sheriff’s Office on Laraway Road on Saturday and then put into the Will County Jail.
Hayes was not ready to disclose any possible motives for the killing on Sunday evening, other than to say, “they worked together at the Home Depot warehouse and at 3 a.m. both got off. They were coworkers and that’s how we were able to develop the suspect as a person of interest originally. There’s a lot of details that I can’t get into right now.”
Around 4:40 a.m. Friday, Elwood police learned of the homicide as officers found Bigger dead in his car along Baseline Road closed between Arsenal and Noel Roads.
One of the truck drivers rolling through CenterPoint spotted Bigger’s car on the side of the road and thought it looked suspicious. When the semi-trailer driver still saw it there an hour later, at 4:40 a.m., the trucker called Elwood police.
“That tip was instrumental. That was very important,” Hayes said.
Draper’s next court appearance is Tuesday in Courtroom 405 of Will County Judge Dave Carlson.
Draper lives in the 800 block of Joliet’s Hollow Glen Court, which is near Black Road and I-55.
He has an extensive criminal history in Will and Cook counties. His criminal convictions include: armed habitual criminal, possessing a defaced gun, felon in possession of a gun, resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, battery, possession of a controlled substance, unlawful use of a weapon, aggravated battery to a peace officer, battery, battery causing great bodily harm and robbery.
Hayes said that Elwood police are fortunate that they had 15 to 20 investigators from the Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force who came to Elwood to help solve Friday’s early morning homicide in quick time. The lead investigators on the case were Elwood Police Sgt. Andrew Anderson and Jason Opiola, sergeant of investigations at the Crest Hill Police Department.
Hayes said the investigation came together very rapidly once authorities learned the victim’s name. Hayes said the quick turnaround in solving a homicide on a remote stretch of road in Elwood, the town’s first homicide since 2009, should send a message to other violent criminals.
“The days of a bunch of Barney Fifes being in a small town (police department) are over,” Hayes said. “It’s a good day when you can take a dangerous person like this off the streets.”