Teen sentenced to probation, community service for fatal Glenview stabbing
The teenager charged in the August 2020 stabbing death of 15-year-old Elias Valdez in Glenview was sentenced on Monday to three years probation and 100 hours of community service in exchange for his guilty plea to second-degree murder.
Cook County Judge Steven Bernstein also ordered the now 17-year-old high school senior and his parents to participate in counseling. The judge ordered the teen's name not be published.
Valdez was a rising sophomore at Glenbrook South High School and a member of the wrestling team. He was found in the grassy parkway on the 1200 block of Greenwood Road about 7 p.m. Aug. 5, 2020, with multiple stab wounds to his chest. He died later that night during surgery at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. Police said it was the first murder in the village since 2004.
According to authorities, Valdez intended to buy marijuana from the defendant. After Valdez attempted to take the drugs without paying for them, the defendant chased him, authorities said. A struggle ensued during which Valdez ended up on top of the defendant, who reached for a utility tool that contained a blade, according to reports. Valdez was stabbed during a subsequent struggle.
Describing the grief of the victim's family, Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Robert Kline said, "The hurt and pain of their loss is still acute and deeply felt."
Valdez's family members wanted the defendant charged with first-degree murder and held in custody. Instead, he was charged with second-degree murder and held on home monitoring. Those orders sparked accusations of preferential treatment and led to protests at the Glenview Police Department and the Skokie courthouse in 2020.
In a victim impact statement read by pastor Carl Guadagno, Valdez's mother, Marcela Fierros, described her grief as "living in a dark tunnel I'm not able to get through" but said her faith in God sustains her.
"A mother doesn't expect to bury a child so young and much less in such a tragic and overwhelming way," Fierros wrote. "He was only 15 years old and had so many dreams to accomplish. ... His goals were to graduate from high school, study law enforcement and become a police officer.
"When the defendant stabbed my son, he stabbed the heart of my family."
She said she did not believe justice was served by probation and community service and referenced "white privilege" in her statement, adding she believes if a Latino teen had been charged with murdering a Caucasian, he would have been tried as an adult "and spent years behind bars."
Expressing support for the Black and Brown lives matter movements, defense attorney David Kerstein responded saying, "There is no privilege here. There is no special treatment."
Valdez was not a "poster child" for those movements, Kerstein said, adding the victim was a member of the wrestling team whereas his client "was a 97-pound weakling" whose head was slammed to the concrete six to 10 times by Valdez before the struggle over the utility tool blade commenced. "It takes two to make a drug deal," he said. "Mr. Valdez was a buyer."
Bernstein referenced the drug sale in his comments to the defendant, who was flanked by his parents.
"I see a child like you who has two parents concerned with his welfare ... a bright kid with a bright future, and I wonder what are you doing in my courtroom," Bernstein said. "I don't think you're a murderer, but you killed this child and you have to live with that for the rest of your life."
Bernstein expressed condolences to Fierros and her family for their loss.
"You'll never get closure. I wish I could tell you you will," he said. "Your son will be in your heart forever."