She has been identified by police as “a person of interest” in the Romeoville mass slaying, but a lawyer said Friday that the Streamwood woman killed alongside the chief suspect — her fiancé — in Oklahoma is herself a victim.
A friend described Ermalinda Palomo as “a loving mother, sister and daughter” and the “most loving grandmother her grandchildren can have.”
And she was nowhere near Romeoville when the family of four was killed in the far southwestern suburb last weekend, a lawyer for Palomo’s family said.
“She is a victim, too,” said attorney John Paul Ivec.
Palomo was at home sleeping at the time of the four murders in Romeoville, he said.
Police have said the family was killed sometime between 9 p.m. Saturday and 5 a.m. Sunday.
Palomo, 50, was the mother of five children and five grandchildren, some of whom lived with her in Streamwood, along with the suspect, Nathaniel Huey, 31.
“Shortly after midnight, one of her children was feeding a baby when they heard loud, unique snoring,’’ Ivec said. It was Palomo, who had a distinctive-sounding snore, Ivec said.
Palomo was described by police earlier this week as a “person of interest” and Huey as a “credible suspect” in the murders of Alberto Rolon, 38, and Zoraida Bartolomei, 32, and their two sons, Adriel and Diego and three dogs last weekend.
Palomo and Huey were fatally shot 600 miles away in Oklahoma during a fiery car crash Wednesday after police tried to conduct a traffic stop. It was not clear who fired the shots.
Palomo’s family is in “shock” following her death, Ivec said Friday. Her family was told Palomo’s death was a homicide, according to Ivec.
“They’re grieving, and they don’t want to be contacted by media,” he said.
A close family friend of Palomo described her as a “light in the family and everyone’s biggest supporter.”
“She was a loving mother, sister and daughter,” the friend, who knew Palomo and her family for over two decades, said. “She was the most loving grandmother her grandchildren can have.”
She was engaged to Huey for “four to five years,” the friend said.
Two days after the Rolon-Bartolomei family was found slain, the Streamwood woman on Tuesday night was “reported by family as a missing/endangered person,” police said.
Information was entered into a national law enforcement database, and Romeoville police distributed a “bulletin to law enforcement agencies believing Huey to be a credible suspect in this investigation.”
Huey and Palomo were detected by a digital license plate reader alert in Catoosa, Oklahoma Wednesday morning, Romeoville police Deputy Chief Chris Burne said during a news conference Wednesday.
“One of our cameras gave us two notifications — one of the same vehicle as the individual that was of interest in [Romeoville’s] quadruple homicide, and a female that had been listed as missing or endangered,” Catoosa Police Chief Ronnie Benight told NBC Chicago.
At the time, the vehicle was located in a parking lot of a department store, so officers waited for the pair to exit before approaching, Benight said.
“[Officers] made a very good decision,” Benight said. “It’s a large department store. They waited for them to come out rather than approach possibly armed homicide suspects inside of the crowded area. So when they came out to try to make contact, they got in the vehicle and they fled. So a vehicle pursuit ensued.”
The suspected vehicle sped off and ultimately crashed, causing a fire. Police reported hearing what they believed to be two gunshots, Burne said. He did not say who fired the shots.
In the car, Catoosa police found Palomo wounded by gunfire in the passenger seat. She was taken to a hospital and later died of her injuries, authorities said.
The driver, who police believe was Huey, was found shot to death.
Detectives determined the shooting was “not a random incident” collecting a tremendous amount of physical evidence, Burne said in a video Tuesday.
Burne said there was “a nexus between our suspect and the victims as well as a possible” motive for the slaying, but he declined to elaborate. He did say they had no evidence of additional suspects.
Relatives of the Rolon-Bartolomei family issued a statement Wednesday thanking the public for its support.
“We want to express our heartfelt gratitude for the outpouring of solidarity and support following the tragic loss of Zoraida Bartolomei, her husband Alberto Rolón, and their sons Adriel and Diego,” the family wrote.
Relatives created a GoFundMe page to cover funeral expenses for Bartolomei, Rolon, and their sons, Adriel and Diego, 10 and 7.
“These were hardworking people that had just bought their first home,” the organizers wrote. “Their kids were the sweetest most innocent angels who could hug your worries away.”
Contributing: Emmanuel Camarillo, Allison Novelo, Phyllis Cha