One in custody in Gold Coast hotel murder - FOX 32 News Chicago

One in custody in Gold Coast hotel murder

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Brianna Gardner Brianna Gardner
CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

A person is being held in connection with a woman's murder in a Gold Coast luxury hotel Monday, police said Thursday morning.

Brianna Gardner, 22, was found with a gunshot wound to the head at 10 a.m. Monday in a room in the Whitehall Hotel at 105 E. Delaware Pl.

Hours later, a cleaning crew entered the woman's room and found her dead, authorities said.

Two cell phones were found in the room, one belonging to Gardner and the other to the suspect, sources said.

One person has been arrested in connection with the murder and is currently being held at the Area Central lockup, police said Thursday morning. Additional details on the suspect were not immediately available.

Court records show Gardner was arrested on a prostitution charge five days ago in Chicago. She was on the sidewalk soliciting men in cars and on foot about 3:20 a.m. on Aug. 8 at 25 W. Hubbard, police said.

Related: Woman killed in Whitehall hotel had been busted for prostitution

She also was charged with prostitution in April in Harris County, Texas.

Police said they have not established a motive for her slaying, but are investigating whether it's tied to her alleged involvement in prostitution.

Housekeeping staff at the boutique hotel found Gardner's body in a seventh-floor room, according to police and hotel guests.

The killing shocked patrons of the Whitehall — hailed as one of the "great small hotels in the United States."

"I'm scared. You don't feel secure," said guest Megan Cole of Florida as she left the Whitehall with her child in a stroller. Her family had been at the hotel three nights.

"You don't expect something like this at a hoity-toity hotel off the Magnificent Mile," she said. "There were a slew of police on the seventh floor. I hate to say it, but I hope it's someone she knew. I hate to think it was an intruder. We leave tomorrow, thank God."

The European-style hotel is in a landmark building just off Michigan Avenue, a block from the John Hancock Center.

Abel Angeles, a doorman at The Bristol, a condo building next door, said detectives asked the condo for its surveillance footage because the Whitehall has no outdoor cameras.

"I've worked here five years, and there's never been anything like this," Angeles said. "The paramedics pulled up, went in with a stretcher, and came back out without anyone, and left. Then the police descended. That's when we knew it was serious."

Representatives for the Whitehall — built as apartments in the late 1920s and converted to a hotel in the ‘50s — declined comment.

"We've been coming here for eight years. It's shocking. You don't expect this here," said Dan Cooper of Burr Ridge, who with wife Jennifer and their three kids had come for lunch at Fornetto Mei, the hotel's popular fine-dining restaurant on the first floor.

The 221-room hotel was named "one of the eight great small hotels in the United States" by Fortune magazine, according to its website. It's why Brian Baugh of Cincinnati chose it for a week's vacation with his wife, Rachel, to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

"We just got here. As soon as we heard what happened, we called another hotel and checked out. We don't need any level of discomfort. It's not what we're here for," Baugh said.

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