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Illinois Town Tries to Find Killer of Retarded ‘Walking Man’

December 6, 1990

CHICAGO (AP) _ Richard Dunne was known as The Walking Man. He loved to borrow classical music tapes from the library and listen to them through headphones as he wandered the streets. Then he was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

The death of the 51-year-old retarded man has suburban Northlake neighbors up in arms. The mayor is offering a reward out of his own pocket in hopes of tracking down the driver who hit Dunne last week.

″He got cheated by life when he was born, and now he’s been cheated out of the rest of his life,″ said Jerry Dunne, who cared for his retarded brother.

Northlake Mayor Reid Paxson, who is offering a $500 reward, lamented the lack of witnesses to the fatal collision.

″Sometimes people have their memories jogged if there’s a reward involved, Paxson said Wednesday. ″I think the family could accept it if it were an accident. They can’t accept this.″

Dunne’s death brought an outpouring of grief from Northlake residents. They had come to expect to see Dunne walking the streets in a sport coat and tie, headphones on, listening to classical music as he had for the 11 years he lived in town.

″The wake was loaded with people,″ his brother said. ″He knew more people in this town than I did, and I’ve lived here 27 years.″

Dunne and another brother, Gene, were born retarded, Jerry Dunne said. They moved into Jerry’s upstairs bedrooms after their mother became too old to care for them. The pair became known for their habit of walking everywhere.

″We accepted them as they were, and they accepted us ‘sane’ people for what we are,″ Paxson said.

Dunne visited the Northlake Public Library almost daily, although he couldn’t read or write. He spent hours copying pictures out of the Bible and listening to music.

Tchaikovsky’s works were among Dunne’s favorites, said research librarian Karen Ryeacki, who met him when she began working at the library six years ago.

″He was one of our regulars. He would come in during the day, leave for dinner or lunch, then come back in the evening,″ Ryeacki said. ″There were some things he did not have. But he had gifts. He could tell when someone was having a bad day, and he always had a kind word.″

Dunne did not visit the library the night he died, Nov. 29. A police officer spotted him standing on a street corner about 6:45 p.m., Police Chief Seymour Sapoznik said.

Twenty minutes later, a factory worker on break found him sprawled on the ground, Sapoznik said. No witnesses have come forward, although the corner usually is heavily traveled at that time of night, police said.

Police are distributing fliers to businesses in the community of about 12,000 people in the search for clues, Sapoznik said.

″He was the town walker, and everyone knew and liked him,″ Sapoznik said. ″Why would someone run when it’s just an accident?″

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