Co-workers remember South Bend ICU nurse killed in Chicago-area mall

By: Ryan Famuliner Email
By: Ryan Famuliner Email

SOUTH BEND - Saturday morning about 11:00 police were called to the Tinley Park Lane Bryant store.

When they arrived, they found five women had been shot and killed in the back of the store after a botched armed robbery.

That prompted a massive manhunt that started with police going door to door to nearby stores. Investigators also searched by air: using infrared cameras to try and find the suspect.

That search even led police to South Haven, Michigan; where people thought they had seen the suspect. Police questioned one person, but determined he was not involved and was released.

The five victims were all women, ranging from 22 to 42 years old.

Four are from the Chicago suburbs, Connie Woolfolk from Flossmoor, Sarah Szfranski from Oak Forest, Carrie Chiuso from Frankfort, and Rhoda McFarland of Joliet.

34-year old Jennifer Bishop from South Bend was the fifth victim.

The news of Bishop's death sent shock waves through South Bend's Memorial Hospital, where she worked as a nurse in the intensive care unit.

Bishop's co-workers remember her as a good friend, and a loving mother.

She leaves behind a husband and three children.

And her co-workers say it's been a very tough couple days in the ICU, as the unbelievable news sets in.

“I think we're all still kind of in the shock stage,” said Wyndy Berndsen, an ICU nurse who had known Bishop for 10 years.

The loss of Bishop is devastating to her friends and co-workers.

“She’s a role model as a nurse; and I mean I’m a mother too, and a lot of us look up to her and how amazing she is. Not only with her kids or with us: as co-workers and as a friend,” said Sarah Paturalski, and ICU nurse who knew Bishop for almost 3 years.

The impact of the loss goes far beyond the walls of the hospital

“Unfortunately, we didn't just lose Jeni, but her 3 kids lost their mom. She has a little girl that's going to be a teenager, and all little girls need their mom. So, unfortunately he took that from them. She was wonderful and everything to them and he took that,” Paturalski said.

"He" is the suspect police have been searching for since the shooting Saturday.

Bishop's friends say the nature of her death makes it much worse - even though they're used to seeing tragedy in the ICU.

“It still makes no sense because we loved her. It would be easier if it was a car accident, but unfortunately this is a part of our reality too, and that's what makes it so hard… You never think its going to happen to you, but it can happen to anyone,” Paturalski said.

And while they hope the manhunt is successful, there's only so much to gain.

“We want him to be caught, but more than anything what we want to do is hold on to her little kids you know and let them know that eventually it'll be OK, and that their mom loved them very much,” Paturalski and Berndsen said.

Bishop's friends say some of their favorite memories with her were trips they took to her family's lake house on weekends.

The description of the subject police have given to the public is still vague: a black male, about 5 foot 9 and between 230 and 260 pounds.

But police say they're now looking at security cameras from surrounding stores to see if they can get anything else to help: the Lane Bryant didn't have cameras.

Chicago area Crimestoppers are offering $5,000 to anyone with information that leads them to the suspect.

Lane Bryant's parent company says it will offer a $50,000 reward.


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