Police are questioning a person of interest in the slaying of a man known in his Lawndale neighborhood as a gifted cook who organized block parties to raise money for school children, sources said.
Ricky Randolph, 47, and his friends planned to hold a
"You would not believe how many lives this guy touched," said his friend, Eddie Meeks, 36. "He turned his life around and was really starting to live this ideal life. But to be taken like this. . ."
Friends and family members said a co-worker went to his home in the 1400 block of South Kenneth Avenue at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday after Randolph didn't show up for work for two days.
A nephew and niece who live upstairs in the same building had a key and discovered his body on the floor by his bed. The floor and walls were still stained with blood a day later, Meeks said.
The motive appeared to be robbery, the friend added. Randolph's apartment was ransacked and his stereo system, DVR and car were missing, along with jeans, shirts and shoes. Police later recovered the car, a 2011 Chevy Cruze, near Polk Street and St. Louis Avenue, about two miles northeast of Randolph's house, Meeks said.
The case remains under investigation, but a source told the Tribune a person of interest was being questioned.
An autopsy today by the Cook County medical examiner's office found that Randolph suffered blunt trauma to the head from an assault and died of strangulation. His death was ruled a homicide.
Randolph's older sister, Vickie Randolph, said her brother was the seventh of nine in a family of five daughters and four sons who grew up in Lawndale. Randolph was a 1981 graduate of Farragut High School.
An addiction to
Court records show Randolph pleaded guilty to a drug felony in 1989 and was sentenced to probation. He later violated the probation and was jailed until 1995, records indicate.
After he was released, Randolph went through a drug rehabilitation program. He had been clean for more than 15 years, said his friend Nathaniel Brown.
In 1998, Randolph started a catering service. It started small -- weddings, church events and parties -- and grew until he was catering for the cast and crew of plays and musicals on their runs in the Loop, his sisters said. He also cooked for neighbors and his family.
"He was well-known for his jerk chicken and peach cobbler," said Meeks. "That was his way of giving back to the community."
Randolph worked in the conference center at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis since 1997.
Co-worker Mary Barkley said Randolph supervised a team of five who worked for Compass Group, a food services company, and worked at the law firm. Barkley said Randolph rarely missed work.
"It wasn't like him" to not call when he would be absent, she said. Thursday afternoon she went to his building and told his relatives her concerns. Later Thursday night she got the call she had been dreading.
"He was a really wonderful guy," Barkley said. "We all loved Ricky, and we don't understand why this happened to him."
"We are deeply saddened by the sudden death of Ricky Randolph," Kirkland & Ellis spokeswoman Laura McClain said in an email. "Ricky was an important part of our team and will be greatly missed by all who knew him."
Randolph had been organizing annual parties for four years and charged a fee to raise money for backpacks and other school supplies for children in his neighborhood. The last one was in July and several hundred people attended, Brown said.
The money raised there, about $6,000, went for school supplies and Saturday's back-to-school block party. His friends say they still plan to hold the event in his honor.
This afternoon, condolence messages from friends and acquaintances flooded his
"Ricky....you are suppose to be at my house in two days," one message read. "In times like this, people always say 'He is in a better place.' I am taking little comfort in that today. I'm selfish and want you here with us. Who would do this to you?!?!!?"
Randolph loved to go out dancing with friends at clubs. "He would dance until he was sweaty," Meeks said.
Several months ago, Randolph told his friend that if he died, he didn't want a funeral in a church. Instead he wanted the funeral outside. He wanted the mood to be festive, and he wanted
"He said, 'I want you to celebrate my life the way I lived it,' " Meeks said.
Tribune reporters William Lee and Jeremy Gorner contributed.