July 18th, 2024

Illinois man rejects deal to plead guilty to 7 murder charges in shooting at 2022 July Fourth parade

By Sophia Tareen And Kathleen Foody, The Associated Press on June 26, 2024.

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) – The man accused of killing seven people and injuring dozens more at a 2022 Independence Day parade in a Chicago suburb rejected a deal requiring him to plead guilty to seven charges of murder Wednesday in a stunning courtroom scene just days before the second anniversary of the attack.

Appearing in a Lake County courtroom, Robert E. Crimo III, 23, refused to accept the agreement that prosecutors said would mean a life sentence for him in the Highland Park shooting.

Prosecutors initially charged him with 21 counts of first-degree murder – three counts for each person killed – as well as 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery.

Dozens of people were wounded in the 2022 shooting. The wounded ranged in age from their 80s down to an 8-year-old boy who was left partially paralyzed.

Witnesses described initial confusion as the shots began, followed by panic as families fled the parade route through downtown Highland Park, leaving behind chairs, bicycles and strollers in the rush to find safety inside nearby businesses or homes.

The criminal case has proceeded slowly for months. At one point, Crimo insisted he wanted to fire his public defenders and represent himself. He abruptly reversed that decision weeks later. Wednesday’s hearing was announced last week, though he was not scheduled to return to court until August.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) – A man accused of killing seven people and injuring dozens more at a Fourth of July parade in suburban Chicago in 2022 is expected to change his initial plea of not guilty at a hearing Wednesday.

Robert Crimo III is scheduled to face trial in February on dozens of charges, including murder and attempted murder, for the shooting in Highland Park. Lake County prosecutors confirmed last week that Crimo may change his not guilty plea at a hearing set for Wednesday morning, about a week before the two-year anniversary of the mass shooting.

The statement released by Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart’s office did not provide more detail on the expected changes or how it could influence sentencing. Crimo would face a mandatory sentence of life without parole if convicted of first-degree murder.

The public defender’s office, which is defending Crimo, didn’t return a request for comment last week and generally does not comment on its cases.

The criminal case has proceeded slowly for months. At one point, Crimo insisted he wanted to fire his public defenders and represent himself. He abruptly reversed that decision weeks later.

Authorities have said the accused gunman confessed to police in the days after he opened fire from a rooftop in Highland Park, an affluent suburb that is home to about 30,000 people near the Lake Michigan shore. They said he initially fled to the Madison, Wisconsin, area and contemplated a second shooting at a parade there but returned to Chicago’s northern suburbs.

Those killed in the attack were Katherine Goldstein, 64; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63; Stephen Straus, 88; Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78; and Eduardo Uvaldo, 69, and married couple Kevin McCarthy, 37, and Irina McCarthy, 35.

The McCarthys’ 2-year-old son was found alone at the scene and eventually reunited with extended family members.

All of them were from the Highland Park area except for Toledo-Zaragoza, who was visiting family in the city from Morelos, Mexico.

The violence focused attention on Highland Park’s 2013 ban on semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines. Illinois officials have long contended that legal and illegal weapons are easily purchased in surrounding states, hampering even the toughest local laws’ effectiveness.

Authorities said that Crimo, a resident of nearby Highwood, legally purchased the rifle. But he first applied for a state gun license in 2019 when he was 19, too young to apply independently in Illinois.

His father sponsored the application, though police reports show that months earlier a relative reported to police that Crimo III had threatened to “kill everyone” and had made several threats to kill himself.

Prosecutors initially charged the father, Robert Crimo Jr., with seven felony counts of reckless conduct and he pleaded guilty in November to seven misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and released early for good behavior.

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For more on the shooting, go to https://apnews.com/hub/highland-park-july-4-shooting

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