To their neighbors on the quiet block in Joliet, they seemed like a typical suburban family.
The teenage girls jumping rope with other girls. A young boy playing in the front yard. Family members carrying groceries or putting out the trash bins on garbage pick-up day.
But that picture of tranquility was shattered this week when police say a 23-year-old man killed his mother and six other family members in two houses on the block before killing another random victim nearby.
Seven of mass murder suspect Romeo Nance’s victims were identified Wednesday by Joliet police as his mother, four siblings — two of them teenage sisters — and an aunt and uncle.
The massacre sent shockwaves across the block, through the surrounding community, all the way to the White House.
President Joe Biden offered his and first lady Jill Biden’s condolences on Wednesday.
And late Wednesday, Kyleigh Cleveland-Singleton, Nance’s girlfriend and the mother of his child, was accused of making statements to prevent Nance’s arrest.
Cleveland-Singleton, 21, of Joliet, is charged with one count of obstruction of justice, Joliet police said.
As detectives investigated the slayings, the whereabouts of Nance’s 3-year-old son were unknown. Investigators learned the child was with Cleveland-Singleton and his grandmother at a home in Plainfield.
Detectives visited the home on Monday, and Cleveland-Singleton agreed to be questioned regarding the slayings.
“Following questioning of Cleveland-Singleton, detectives believed that she made statements in order to prevent the apprehension of the suspect and obstruct this investigation,” police said.
It’s just the latest twist in a horrific case that has left Joliet on edge for days.
Neighbor Guadalupe Robles, 38, said she moved into her home on the block in August to get away from violence on the South Side of Chicago, but she has never experienced anything like what occurred this week.
“We came over here wanting to go into a more quiet, peaceful neighborhood,” Robles told the Sun-Times. “Aside from this incident, this is a really quiet block. To me, it’s unsettling because to know that there was [seven] people shot on our block when we didn’t hear anything, that’s concerning.”
“We never lived an experience like that in the inner city of Chicago,” Robles said. “It kind of makes you feel like you’re not safe anywhere.”
Killed Sunday in two homes on the block in the far southwestern suburb were the suspect’s mother, Tameka Nance, 47; sisters Alexandria Nance, 20, Alonnah Nance, 16, and Angel Nance, 14; brother Joshua Nance, 31; aunt Christine Esters, 38; and uncle William Esters II, 35.
An eighth victim, Toyosi Bakare, 28, was found shot in the head Sunday afternoon at Pheasant Run Apartments in unincorporated Joliet Township and was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Joliet, where he died, according to the Will County coroner’s and sheriff’s offices. A ninth man was wounded.
Romeo Nance was accused of killing all eight of his victims before taking his own life Monday night in Texas as he was fleeing from authorities.
His sisters Alonnah Nance and Angel Nance were identified by Joliet West as the two teenage victims. The other names all came from police and the Will County coroner.
Alonnah Nance was a junior at Joliet West, Kristine Schlismann, director of communications at the high school, confirmed. Alexandria Nance was a 2022 alumna.
“Words cannot adequately express the sadness that we are feeling right now. They just cannot,” Karla Guseman, superintendent of Joliet Township High School District 204, said in a statement.
“Our JTHS community is grieving this senseless loss, and our hearts are aching for Alonnah, Alexandria, their family, and all of our students and staff who are experiencing such a deep loss and sorrow.”
Everly Martin, a 14-year-old student at Joliet West, often saw Alonnah Nance walking in the hallways.
“She was a great person,” Everly told the Sun-Times.
Crisis management support was available at the high school Wednesday due to the “close proximity” of the homicides to the school.
Romeo Nance’s mother and uncle were found shot to death in one of the homes in the 2200 block of West Acres Road. His aunt and four siblings were found in the home across the street.
A snowman still stood in the backyard of one of the homes on Wednesday.
When Robles and her boyfriend, Angel Perez, first came to look at their home, they saw one of the Nance girls doing cartwheels at the home across the street. Other times, they saw a small boy playing out front or family members taking in groceries.
Robles described them as a “nice family” who she’d make eye contact with and nod to whenever she saw them outside.
Perez, 31, said he “didn’t get to know the family” but recalled seeing the girls jumping rope with other kids in the neighborhood in a parking lot next to one of the houses.
But Perez noticed something was off when he returned home from work at 1 a.m. Monday and spotted the trash cans at one of the homes on the driveway instead of on the curb like the rest of the houses.
“Normally, garbage passes on a Monday. The garbage cans were [in the driveway], and normally they are on the curb by Sunday night,” Perez said.
On Monday morning, they witnessed officers kick down the door to one of the homes as authorities began sectioning off the block to investigate.
Robles said her daughter, who shared a history class with Alonnah Nance, was still “shaken up” and stayed home from school Wednesday.
The slayings sent shockwaves beyond Joliet and its more than 150,000 residents.
Biden said in a statement: “Jill and I are praying for the family members of the eight victims killed in Joliet, Illinois, and for the broader community devastated by these tragic shootings.
“This tragedy underscores why I am doing everything in my power to keep guns off our streets and out of the hands of those who seek to harm themselves or others,” Biden said in the statement. “It is within our power to stop the epidemic of gun violence tearing our communities apart.”
Police haven’t said what weapons they believe Romeo Nance used during his rampage or how he got them, but Will County court records shed some light.
Last year, Nance was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, citing the weapon was not stored, was accessible, and was in a vehicle, records showed. He also did not have a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card.
Representatives from Peace Over Violence, a Joliet-based violence prevention group, canvassed the neighborhood to speak to residents as police investigators continued to work in and around the houses.
“It’s a very tragic loss for everybody that was involved,” Robles said.
Contributing: Matt Hendrickson and Emmanuel Camarillo