The case gained momentum late last week when a gang intelligence officer at the county jail approached other members of the suspects' gang faction and found one inmate who appeared to know a bit about the slaying, the source said. The next day, while being questioned by two detectives, the inmate gave the name of the parolee who provided the key break.
When contacted by police, that parolee told them that he’d likely fail a drug test if given one because he had smoked some illegal drugs the day before, the source said. Parolees can go back to prison if they fail drug tests. Eventually, according to the source, the parolee later cooperated with detectives, telling them what he knew about Hadiya’s death.
Gang investigations officers quickly set up surveillance of Ward and Williams on Saturday and tracked their every move, the source said. After tailing them all day, police began to worry that the suspects had spotted them and might attempt to flee. The order to arrest them was given shortly before midnight.
At Area Central headquarters on Sunday and Monday, police held more than a dozen lineups with witnesses, but no one from Hadiya's group was able to identify Ward or Williams as being involved, the law enforcement source said.
Ward's lawyer, Jeffrey Granich, contended Tuesday that police refused his client's repeated requests for a lawyer while he was being questioned. He said Ward's family didn't even know where he was being held and that by the time he was called Monday, Ward had confessed.
He also maintained that Ward was being "railroaded" because of the high-profile homicide.
"This is a serious criminal case, this is not a political platform," Granich told reporters after court. "The problem when criminal cases get made into political cases is rules are bent and mistakes are made."
Williams' attorney, Matthew McQuaid, said his client made no statement to detectives. He said any "admissions" referenced by prosecutors in court would be called into question.
"If the statements were allegedly made to a third party or some guy on the street, I think that raises serious questions about their reliability," he said.
State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said prosecutors had sought prison time for Ward when he was convicted of a weapons charge in 2012, but he was given probation because he was only 17 at the time of the offense. A state law that went into effect that year requires a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison for unlawful use of a weapon but only for offenders 18 or older, she said.
Responding to a Tribune report that Ward had been arrested three times while on probation for his gun conviction but still was on the street, Alvarez said the Cook County Adult Probation Department was responsible for notifying prosecutors of the new arrests and filing for a violation of probation. That can result in an arrestee being sent to prison.
"What I've been told (is) the probation department has admitted that they did not notify us, so obviously we didn't proceed on that violation of probation," Alvarez said.
Tribune reporter Jennifer Delgado contributed.