JOE SOTIROS: Niece of slain record store owner seeks closure

No arrests in 1991 murder of 'Hegewisch Joe'
2009-03-02T00:00:00Z JOE SOTIROS: Niece of slain record store owner seeks closureBOWDEYA TWEH
Bowdeya.Tweh@nwitimes.com
219.933.4183
nwitimes.com

"Hegewisch Lisa" Sotiros smiles when she hears people around the region reminiscing about visits to Hegewisch Records and Tapes stores in the 1970s and 1980s.

Her uncle, "Hegewisch Joe" Sotiros, owned stores across Indiana and Illinois, and she said working in the stores as a child and teenager was a huge part of her life, until he was killed. Lisa Sotiros said her uncle had a "larger than life" presence and his death fractured her family. She pays homage to him by using his name while promoting music or when she co-hosts a weekly classic rock show on WXRD-FM 103.9.

Joe Sotiros, 53, was found shot to death Sept. 13, 1991, in his home on Stuenkel Road in Will County.

"I feel like there's this big black cloud that hangs over me every single day," Lisa Sotiros said. "I think of him every single day. So many times I wish I could tell him I love him, hold him and hug him."

Lisa Sotiros said her mother and Joe Sotiros' sister, Brenda, is haunted by images of the blood-stained ceilings and him lying on the floor. She said he was shot at five times, hit three times and was found in his living room.

"I saw blood up on the ceiling and bullet holes in the glass," said Lisa Sotiros, who was 15 at the time of Joe's death. "It's very traumatizing." She added: "He was sick at the time. He was defenseless. It's a different kind of mourning that happens when someone gets killed."

Will County police Detective Lt. William Carlisle said the Sotiros case still is open, but to this point no one has been arrested in connection with the slaying. Carlisle said the last interview done in the case was in 2000.

"With the new sciences and influx of DNA (technology), we review cold cases and re-evaluate the importance of any evidence," Carlisle said. "We've probably already exhausted all interview (possibilities)."

In its heyday, Hegewisch Records was one of the premier spots to buy albums, said Ken Zurek, former manager of the flagship Calumet City store on Torrence Avenue. The chain began in the late 1960s as a general store in Chicago's Hegewisch neighborhood. Once the inspiration to open a record store happened, Joe Sotiros and his partner, Rich Milan, moved the business to Calumet City in 1974. When multiple stores were open, Zurek became a vice president of the company.

"He could squeeze a penny and get a nickel out of it," Zurek said of Sotiros.

Even though he only had an eighth-grade education, Joe Sotiros was an avid reader and self-taught, his niece said. Joe Sotiros grew up poor on Chicago's South Side, but he rose from being a bellman at a Chicago hotel to managing a successful record store chain and Merrillville-based record label Erect Records.

"If Joe liked you, he'd give you the shirt off his back," Zurek said. "(But) Joe didn't trust many people. If he got the vibes he didn't like you, he wouldn't talk to you."

The stores went under different management after Sotiros died and eventually the stores gradually closed as sales at independent record stores began to decline.

Lisa Sotiros said her uncle never married or had children, but he had plenty of family. Every Sunday, they would go for pralines and cream ice cream and KFC and then play pool and pinball at his house. When he died, it has hard for her mother to make or eat the same food her brother liked.

Brenda Sotiros tried to figure out who killed her brother before she died in 2002, but her daughter said it ended up killing her. Lisa Sotiros said her mother told her before dying to not let the search for the killer consume her life. Lisa Sotiros hasn't spoken with police since her mother died, but she only knows of one way to ease the pain.

"I feel like now she knows who did it," Lisa Sotiros said. "Now I wish they would tell me (or) give me a sign."

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