It’s been quiet in the Dunkin Donuts in downtown Lake Forest since a fatal shooting in the parking lot out back on January 3. Two days later, the cashier who was on duty at the time of the incident found it hard to talk about what happened.
“It’s so tragic,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. “She looked like such a nice person.”
Claire VanLandingham, 27, was shot multiple times in the parking lot at 620 N. Western Avenue in Lake Forest just after 6:15 a.m. on January 3, when the temperature hovered below 0 degrees and before the sun was even up. Authorities said she died from the injuries after being transported to Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital.
According to media reports, VanLandingham was a Navy officer and dentist assigned to the dental clinic at Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, which is next to the Naval Station Great Lakes and just 4.4 miles north of where she was shot. For high school she went to Culver Academies in Culver, Indiana, and can be seen on a video from her freshman year talking about her love of dance.
On her Facebook page, VanLandingham stated that she graduated from the University of Louisville in 2017. The university is in Louisville, where Ryan Zike, 33, the man police found dead at the scene behind the donut shop, was from, according to Lake County Coroner Dr. Howard Cooper.
Investigators with the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force said the shooting was a “domestic incident,” and that the two were in a prior relationship that ended in late September/early October 2017.
During that time, Zike worked for the Park District of Highland Park as a naturalist at Heller Nature Center. He started that job September 14, 2017, and voluntarily resigned a month later.
“He was in good standing,” said Elizabeth Gogola, director of communications and marketing for the park district, adding that he did not provide a reason for his resignation.
During his brief tenure at Heller Nature Center, Zike’s responsibilities included overseeing public programs, teams course, scout and custom programs, camps, and the Honey Bee program. The press release issued by the park district in September to announce Zike’s hiring stated that prior to joining the Park District, Zike was a naturalist/recreation supervisor for the Jefferson Memorial Forest in Kentucky for seven years, and that he had a Bachelor of Science in Recreation and Park Administration from Eastern Kentucky University.
On January 4, the day after the shooting, the coroner’s office conducted an autopsy on Zike. Preliminary autopsy results indicate he died from a gunshot wound to the head.
“While it is possible that this wound is self-inflicted, the matter is still under investigation. Toxicology results are pending on both,” stated Dr. Cooper. “Both families have been notified and our deepest condolences go out to them. This is truly an awful tragedy.”
The park district’s Gogola mirrored Dr. Cooper’s thoughts: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by this tragic incident,” she said.