Seferino Calihua-Rodriguez, 35, of Waukegan (inset right) is one of three suspects charged in the murder of the man’s ex-wife, Cecilia Cuahua-Zopiyactle, 33, (inset left) who was fatally shot inside a car near the intersection of Victoria Avenue and 11th Street in North Chicago on September 22, 2023. | Background Photo: Marco Montoya; Insets: Provided

Family and friends are raising money to help send a woman’s body back to Mexico for burial after she was murdered in North Chicago by a hitman allegedly hired by her ex-husband.

The incident happened around 6:05 a.m. on September 22 in the 1000 block of Victoria Avenue in North Chicago.

The North Chicago Police Department received a report of shots fired in the area after receiving an alert through ShotSpotter.

Officers arrived and found Cecilia Cuahua-Zopiyactle, 33, who had been shot. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

An autopsy performed showed that Cuahua-Zopiyactle, who recently lived in Waukegan and North Chicago, died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds, according to Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek.

Banek said the woman is originally from Veracruz, Mexico.

Waukegan resident Jaqui Medina said Cuahua-Zopiyactle’s family has limited funds and is trying to send her body back to Mexico for burial.

A GoFundMe created by Medina has raised almost $3,000 as of Monday.

Investigators have since arrested three suspects in Cuahua-Zopiyactle’s murder.

Seferino Calihua-Rodriguez, 35, of Waukegan, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, solicitation of murder for hire and attempted first-degree murder.

Misael Chavarin-Plazola, 26, of Waukegan, and Rosalio Diaz-Zarate, 29, of Waukegan, were charged with two counts of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.

Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Jeffrey Facklam said a co-worker of the female victim was at the scene when the shooting occurred.

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She told investigators that she and Cuahua-Zopiyactle were going to work. The co-worker was putting her lunch in the back seat when she heard gunfire and dropped to the ground, Facklam said.

She saw a dark Cadillac-style SUV speeding away from the shooting.

Misael Chavarin-Plazola, 26, of Waukegan (inset left); Seferino Calihua-Rodriguez, 35, of Waukegan (inset middle); and Rosalio Diaz-Zarate, 29, of Waukegan (inset right) have been charged in the murder of a woman who was fatally shot inside a car near the intersection of Victoria Avenue and 11th Street in North Chicago on September 22, 2023. | Background Photo: Marco Montoya; Insets: Provided

Lake County Major Crime Task Force Spokesman Christopher Covelli said Chavarin-Plazola was identified as the gunman who shot Cuahua-Zopiyactle.

Chavarin-Plazola also attempted to kill the second woman who was at the scene, Covelli said.

He missed and the gunfire did not strike the other woman.

Facklam said the surviving witness, along with other co-workers, told investigators that Cuahua-Zopiyactle had been having serious problems with her ex, Calihua-Rodriguez, since May.

Calihua-Rodriguez became jealous when he found out Cuahua-Zopiyactle had been seeing someone else.

The co-workers reported that Calihua-Rodriguez wanted to know the female victim’s work schedule and other information, Facklam said.

Investigators recovered video surveillance from the area of the scene, which showed the black SUV driving in the area 20 minutes before the shooting.

The SUV could be seen turning down Victoria Avenue and turning off its lights.

Facklam said the SUV slowed near the shooting location and gunfire could be heard before it sped away.

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Officers identified the Cadillac Escalade SUV and learned it was owned by Diaz-Zarate.

Diaz-Zarate told investigators that Chavarin-Plazola had asked to borrow his vehicle around 4 a.m. on September 22 and that he had returned it later in the morning.

Covelli said it was learned that Diaz-Zarate actually drove Chavarin-Plazola to the area and drove him away from the scene after the murder.

A second witness told police she heard a conversation between Calihua-Rodriguez and Chavarin-Plazola in July where the two discussed that Chavarin-Plazola would kill Cuahua-Zopiyactle in exchange for money, Facklam said.

Multiple police departments respond to investigate the homicide of a woman who was fatally shot inside a car near the intersection of Victoria Avenue and 11th Street in North Chicago on September 22, 2023. | Photo: Marco Montoya

The two discussed specific amounts and the witness said a $1,200 payment was made or was going to be made to Chavarin-Plazola.

Police searched the phones of Calihua-Rodriguez and Chavarin-Plazola. The two had been in constant communication and Calihua-Rodriguez discussed buying a car for Chavarin-Plazola.

Chavarin-Plazola said in the text messages that he thought the deal was for $7,000, with Calihua-Rodriguez responding he thought they agreed to $6,000.

Calihua-Rodriguez at one point appeared to be mad at Chavarin-Plazola, telling him that he still had not done anything and they had been talking since July.

Earlier this month, Calihua-Rodriguez texted Chavarin-Plazola and told him to let him borrow the gun, saying he would “take care of it,” according to Facklam.

Calihua-Rodriguez texted Chavarin-Plazola on September 19 telling him to “get it done tomorrow” and said he had already paid him some of the money and gotten him a car, Facklam said.

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Facklam said that Calihua-Rodriguez also mentioned in the messages he was “looking for another dude” and wanted his money back.

Calihua-Rodriguez texted Chavarin-Plazola on September 21 and told him to “get it done” tomorrow, according to Facklam.

Cellphone data placed Chavarin-Plazola at the scene of the shooting. Facklam said Chavarin-Plazola texted Calihua-Rodriguez minutes after the shooting that “both girls are dead.”

Lake County Judge Theodore Potkonjak during court hearing last week granted a petition for detention filed by prosecutors.

Potkonjak ordered Calihua-Rodriguez held in the Lake County Jail pending his trial.

Chavarin-Plazola and Diaz-Zarate also remain held in the jail and have not had detention hearings yet.

Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said the case is “one of the most calculated and cold-blooded murders we have ever seen.”

Rinehart said the Major Crime Task Force, the state’s attorney’s Violent Crimes Unit and the state’s attorney’s forensic team did an “amazing job” to solve the case.

“These public servants have started to secure justice for this victim and have prevented these offenders from escaping the jurisdiction with their thorough and detailed work,” Rinehart said.