GRIFFITH | An Alsip man has been charged with the murder of 76-year-old St. John resident Mary Austgen, but the motive in the case remains undetermined, police said.
Ralph Martinez, 57, faces charges of murder, robbery and criminal confinement.
He is accused of attacking Austgen on March 28 and taking her at gunpoint from her family business, 801 E. Main St., Griffith. Martinez is a former tenant at the business, said Griffith Police Chief Greg Mance.
Austgen's body was discovered March 29 at the Majestic Star Casino in Gary. She suffered a gunshot to the abdomen, police said.
A man was seen entering the Austgen family business at 2:42 p.m. March 28, court records state. He wasn't seen on the video again until Austgen attempted to leave the building at 5:07 p.m.
The man is seen pointing a semi-automatic handgun at Austgen. The two entered the building again and later left the area in Austgen's car, according to the court records.
The car was later observed entering the casino parking garage.
The same man who was seen at the Austgen family business entered the casino alone through the parking garage and left through the front valet parking area, police said. The man entered a black, four-door vehicle that left the scene about 6:45 p.m. March 28, police said.
On Tuesday, the Griffith and Alsip police departments executed a search warrant at the Alsip residence where Martinez had been staying.
Martinez's cellphone was recovered. A location history on the device shows it was at the Austgen family business property between 2:34 and 3:42 p.m. March 28 and at the Majestic Star Casino between 6:25 and 6:45 p.m. that day, police said.
Martinez's ex-wife told police he was staying with her. The ex-wife indicated images police released of the suspect resembled Martinez, police said.
Martinez told her, "That's not me," court records show. After a $10,000 reward was offered in the case, she said Martinez said "Is that all I'm worth?" according to the court documents.
Two rings Austgen was wearing and about $3,000 were taken from Austgen during the abduction, Mance said.
Martinez's ex-wife also located a ring in her bedroom, court records allege. Assuming it belonged to her daughter, she placed it in her daughter's jewelry box, court records state.
The ex-wife later recognized it closely resembled a ring Austgen was wearing in another photograph that police recently released, according to court records.
The ex-wife later went to retrieve the ring, but it was no longer in the jewelry box, court records state.
Police haven't located Austgen's two rings.
Mance said the motive in the situation hasn't been determined, and police continue to investigate the case. Authorities are seeking information about Martinez's whereabouts on the days before and after Austgen was killed.
"It's important in any investigation," he said of those details.
Earlier this week, police said they were seeking information about the person driving the black, four-door vehicle that was seen leaving the casino March 28.
Mance said police have located that person, who is no longer considered a suspect and is cooperating with police.
Austgen's son, Jeff Austgen, said Thursday his family was glad someone is in custody in the case, but it doesn't change what happened to his mother.
"We've had a lot of emotions in the last several days," he said.
Austgen said he didn't know Martinez and wasn't aware of any issues between Martinez and his mother.
"I went to lunch with my mother every day, and it never came up," he said.
Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the Griffith Police Department at (219) 924-3141, or the department's anonymous tip line at (219) 922-3085.