1979 Murder Suspect Finally Arrested At O’Hare

A 1979 murder suspect was arrested on Friday after almost 35 years on the run. The man, Ata Yousef El Ammouri, 65, was arrested at O’Hare International Airport while trying to return to the country.

El Ammouri was apparently returning to the United States from Jordan, where he was living, to attend a grandchild’s graduation. But instead of attending the ceremony, the man was taken into custody.

Cook County sheriff’s spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis stated that she wasn’t sure where the graduation ceremony took place, but El Ammouri apparently had a connecting flight from O’Hare to an airport in Tennessee.

The fugitive is accused of murdering a shoplifter in 1979 on Chicago’s South Side. Joe Harris, 31, walked out of El Ammouri’s store on July 22, 1979 without paying for a can of beer.

El Ammouri was charged with murder but was able to post $100,000 bail. He disappeared and received additional charges for jumping bail in November 1979 when he didn’t show up for court proceedings. At the time, authorities believed he fled the country to avoid prosecution.

The 1979 murder suspect was taken to bond court on Saturday and ordered held without bail. His next court date will be on Monday. The operation to track and arrest El Ammouri involved the police, the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement, and the US Embassy in Jordan.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart added that the fugitive’s arrest after more than three decades on the run “should send a message that the simple passage of time does not eradicate our commitment to bringing fugitives to justice.” Dart went on to say:

“I want to thank the State Department and the various state and federal agencies for their outstanding intelligence gathering throughout this initiative as well as our team on the ground for their patience and professionalism.”

The 1979 murder suspect was apparently previously in the country for nine months in 1998. It is unclear how he was able to enter and exit the country undetected by law enforcement.

[Image via ShutterStock]