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Community Mourns Slain Mother of 3

Erica Rodriguez, 40, died of strangulation before a fire engulfed her family's home in the 15200 block of Central Avenue Tuesday. Now, a shocked community comes together in grief and support of her three children.

"I think I speak for everyone mommy, but you were too good for this cruel Earth anyway. You deserved the best. I'm honored to be called your son."

The Facebook post on a page dedicated to 40-year-old homicide victim Erica Rodriguez is a heartwrenching one: a 15-year-old Oak Forest High School student struggling to grasp his mother's sudden death.

A loving mother of three, devoted nurse and well-liked Oak Forest resident, the loss of Rodriguez has left the Oak Forest community reeling. 

Rodriguez was found dead inside her home in the 15200 block of Central Avenue, after a fire tore through the family's home Tuesday, Dec. 18. An autopsy revealed she died of strangulation, not from injuries sustained in the fire. Her husband, Martin, 48, was found with a throat wound outside the family's home. He is hospitalized, now in serious condition. 

The couple's three children—Sylvia, 17, Andrew, 15, and Gloria, 6—visited their father Thursday, the first time since the fire. Rodriguez was recently upgraded from critical to serious, the Chicago Tribune reports

As more details come to light, Oak Forest residents are doing what they've so often done in the past—turning to each other for support, comfort and any peace they can find. 

More than 1,300 people have flocked to the Facebook page in her honor. Some leave words of encouragement for her children; others recall encounters with the woman described as beautiful, kind, funny and loving.

"She had a smile that could light up the darkest room and a heart that could fill a universe," wrote one member of the group.

The dedicated hospice nurse and Oak Forest High School graduate left an impression on all those she met.

"Her smile lit up our nursing station. Her laugh was contagious," wrote a former coworker. 

Just days after her death, words of comfort and remembrance fill the empty space on the page; atop her friends' words, her photo shines back at them. 

"You were like a mother to me," wrote her brother, Adam Johnson. "You were my big sister and always will be. I will forever remember who you were and will carry on your memory. You are gone from this world but will never be forgotten. I am blessed to have been a part of your life."

In addition to the Facebook page, community members came together to extend help to the children, promptly starting up . 

Within a day of start-up, the family was so overwhelmed with the amount of tangible items, they ask that all others interested in assisting make a monetary donation to a fund in the family's name (checks should be made payable CNB Bank in Oak Forest, Rodriguez Family Fund).

"Words are little comfort for your loss and your tremendous grief," wrote one member of the Facebook page. "Though I don't know you or your family personally, you are in my thoughts and prayers. Please know that this community is here for your family."

How did you know Erica? What are your memories of her? Leave them in the Comments section below. 

Oakforest neighbor December 21, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Its heart breaking When something terrible like this happens to a peaceful family, I saw Erica 2 days before this horrible incident took place, I was watching the basketball game at Oakforest school , both our son and her son Andrew was playing, it's amazing how life changes that quickly in 2 days, my heart goes out to her children, I know it's not going to be easy for them and they will need the support of our community , the criminal should be caught and brought to justice and the community should be informed about the circumstance of the crime so that we can take precaution measures.
alena mcmurray December 21, 2012 at 06:16 AM
Erica was my step-sister. We have been family for 24 years...while we were not close, we did become friends on Facebook over the past 3 years. The two things we have in common, our love for our children, and our love for our Dad, John. I have prayed and promised Erica that I will be here for him and although I could never take her place, I will love him and take care of him, always.
Lauren Traut (Editor) December 21, 2012 at 06:24 AM
Thank you for sharing, Alena. Very well-said. I know you've done your family proud. Lauren Traut Associate Regional Editor
NANCY GRACE December 27, 2012 at 12:55 PM
So what's the deal...we all want to know.
Lauren Traut (Editor) December 27, 2012 at 03:33 PM
We do not have further information at this time. Please be patient. When we know more, we'll report it. Lauren
friend December 27, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Is there a memorial service or any funeral plans? I worked with Erica and would like to attend
Shannon December 29, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Regarding the above comment I only know that they planned on doing a service after the holidays. I haven't heard any further details since that though.

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