Beach Park man guilty of double murder in bat beating case
It took less than an hour for a Lake County jury to find Armando Trejo Jr. guilty of first-degree murder in the bludgeoning deaths of his wife and stepson.
The jury also found the Beach Park man's actions were so brutal and heinous, it recommended he be sent to prison for the rest of his life when Judge James K. Booras rules on sentencing May 20.
Trejo, 50, testified in court to using an aluminum bat in the beating deaths of his wife, Lailani Uy Trejo, 43, and 14-year-old stepson, Patrick K. Cruz Uy, in their house Nov. 29, 2015.
Defense attorneys Michael Ettinger and Stephen Simonian argued during the eight-day trial that Armando Trejo reacted with "sudden and intense passion" after seeing his wife sexually abusing his stepson.
Ettinger and Simonian said the circumstances behind the violent reaction constitutes a second-degree murder charge, which carries a sentence of four to 20 years in prison.
But the jury didn't buy it.
"I'm gratified by the jury verdict of first-degree murder and the additional verdict that the crime was exceptionally brutal and heinous," Assistant Lake County State's Attorney Eric Kalata said. "Hopefully, the family of Lailani and Patrick will find some closure knowing justice was served today."
Kalata and Assistant Lake County State's Attorney Jason Humke said in closing arguments Monday that Armando Trejo fulfilled a promise and killed his wife because she was preparing to leave him after discovering text messages to him from another woman.
After Lailani confronted her husband repeatedly over four days, Armando Trejo used the bat to beat her to death in the basement of the house they shared with his parents, prosecutors said.
Authorities said emergency dispatchers received a phone call the night of the attack from Lailani, saying she "needs police" and "she was dying and she was bleeding." Dispatchers heard several "ping" sounds, which authorities believe was the sound of the bat striking her. Kalata and Humke said during closing arguments that Lailani called 911 for help after being hit with the bat several times in her basement bedroom. They said Armando Trejo took the phone after she made the call, but he didn't initially hang up when he put it in his pocket and repeatedly struck her with the bat.
The attack drifted to the first floor, where Trejo's mother tried to intervene. Armando Trejo testified at trial he "accidentally" hit her on the arm with the bat.
When his stepson tried to intervene, Trejo repeatedly hit the boy with the bat until he died.
"I think it goes without saying these two didn't deserve to die," Humke told the jury.
When police came to the house shortly after the beating, Trejo tried to send them away, claiming a nonexistent 2-year-old accidentally dialed 911. He also gave police a fictitious name, authorities said.
After his mother came outside and spoke with an officer, police were allowed inside and discovered the murders, authorities said.
"There is no more personal way to kill someone than to beat them with a baseball bat," Kalata told jurors. "When you beat someone to death, it is a slow, personal process because you have to keep swinging and swinging and swinging."
Ettinger said during his closing argument that Trejo "lost it" after seeing Lailani sexually abuse Patrick that night. He also argued she never intended to leave Armando Trejo, that there was no infidelity, and they were a loving couple. "He lost it in the sudden heat of passion," Ettinger said. "He caused the death of these two people, but he didn't commit murder one."
Ettinger and Simonian said they would appeal the verdict.
The $5 million bail that Armando Trejo had been held on in Lake County jail was immediately revoked after the guilty verdict.