Jacqueline Avant, an Afghan-born Muslim and the daughter of a former Chicago police sergeant, was found dead on January 24 in her Northwest Side home. She’d been shot multiple times and, according to police, the home invasion began with a break-in and robbery. Her husband was grazed by a bullet.
Her suspected killer, Brian Anderson, 37, of Zion, Illinois, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of first-degree murder and armed robbery in connection with the murder. Anderson is held without bail in Cook County Jail. His sentencing is scheduled for July 31.
Anderson was allegedly involved in a larger crime ring that was robbing homes in the greater Chicago area on a regular basis, according to a police news release.
Avant’s death has been considered “suspicious” by police. An autopsy report listed “blunt force trauma” as the cause of death. The Cook County Medical Examiner determined that Avant died of multiple gunshots.
“We believe she was at home when a robbery occurred and during the robbery, the suspect, Mr. Anderson, actually shot Ms. Avant,” said Patrick Camden, spokesman for the Chicago Police Department. “We believe that then he proceeded to enter into Ms. Avant’s home and robbed the house.”
CNN contacted Avant’s husband, David Avant, through a family member for comment and will update this story when that request is granted. He has remained in Afghanistan, where the family’s business was based, since the killing.
Anderson has been a “frequent visitor” to the Avant home, Camden said.
Anderson was arrested shortly after the crime, police said. He initially gave an account in which he claimed he “grabbed a gun from the roof” of the home when the homeowner “pointed it at him,” according to a police news release.
Anderson also “falsely identified” himself to police, the release said.
The robbery ring
According to police, the organization operated in four states: Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.
Camden said Anderson was originally wanted on two counts of armed robbery in Hammond, Indiana, for a crime that occurred there in February. He fled the state, however, and was arrested in Lake County, Illinois, authorities said.
Chicago police received tips on Anderson’s location following his arrest in Lake County, prompting the local police department to deploy officers to the couple’s home on the night of the killing.
“[Anderson] had been at the home, presumably, for some time,” Camden said.
Anderson’s time in Lake County, however, was short-lived. Authorities determined in early March that Anderson did not actually live at the home, Camden said.
“He ended up being back in the Chicago area,” he said.
Anderson was arrested Monday, April 9, in a rental property he owned in Zion, Illinois, police said. The Zion Police Department confirmed to CNN the rental property is Anderson’s former house.
Camden said Anderson allegedly used a power tool and broke into Avant’s home and ordered her husband to the floor.
Avant was fatally shot, while her husband was grazed by a bullet, Camden said. She was found lying in the floor. The house and the shotgun used in the murder were found under some bedding on a closet floor, Camden said.
Police set up surveillance on Anderson and he was arrested on Monday, April 9, in Zion, according to police.
Following the arrest, Anderson was charged with one count of murder and was being held in Lake County, Illinois, according to police.
In addition to her family’s homeland of Afghanistan, Avant was also known for being a popular advocate of Islam and the Muslim faith.
CNN affiliate WLS described her as a “one-woman mosque” who liked to wear traditional Muslim clothing and traditional Islamic head coverings.
“It was just something that she loved, and it was something that was really important to her and something that she wanted others to embrace and be a part of,” David Avant told WLS.
A vigil for Avant was held Thursday at the Old Town neighborhood, where she lived, according to WLS.