Police credit neighbors for arrest of alleged 18-year-old murder suspect

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A Rockford teen is in custody, accused of a murdering a woman in cold blood.

“To stop the violence, we need to break the silence,” said Marilyn Hite-Ross, the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Chief of the Criminal Bureau.

Investigators praised the residents who stepped up to help identify a teen accused in the shooting death of Desiree Weir-Stephens on May 16th on Royal Avenue.

“No one wants a crime like this to take place in their neighborhood,” said Assistant Deputy Chief Carla Redd of the Rockford Police Department. “We appreciate the fact that, when we do go and as questions, a lot of the neighbors will step up and provide whatever information they do have.”

Police say 18-year-old Matthew Cavender walked up to Weir-Stephens outside her home and fired a bullet into her head. He now faces First Degree Murder charges in her death.

Tania Graves lives a few houses down from where the shooting took place. She says the Royal Avenue block where the murder occurred is a close-knit community. 

Graves believes it’s also up to residents to help fight the violence that plagues Rockford.

“If they didn’t, things would keep continuing to happen and go on, if people decided to keep quiet about what they saw, or what they heard,” she said. “It’s very important to be vocal to keep your community safe.”

Deputy Chief Redd says the partnership between officers and residents is crucial to create a safe environment for all.

“We don’t want anyone who may be responsible for a murder among the rest of the residents in the community,” she said. “We want our community to be safe.”

Graves agrees. She says it’s a relief that someone is in custody for the murder.

“They could be out running around, doing it to somebody else. It could be someone else out here getting hurt,” she said.

Officials say Weir-Stephens and Cavender were acquainted, but declined to say how.

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