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

Under the deal, the suspect would've been imprisoned for life and ineligible for release on the murder counts.
Shooting July Fourth Parade
Posted at 9:30 AM, Jun 26, 2024

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.

Prosecutor Ben Dillon told Judge Victoria Rossetti that attorneys had discussed an agreement requiring Crimo to plead guilty to seven counts of first-degree murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. He would be imprisoned for life and ineligible for release on the murder counts.

As family members of people killed and others wounded in the mass shooting watched, Rossetti asked Crimo if the agreement described was what he discussed with his attorneys. Crimo remained silent before looking back at his parents seated in a front-row bench.

Defense attorneys Greg Ticsay and Anton Trizna briefly spoke with Crimo at the defense table before Rossetti suggested they go back into a private room. When they returned, the judge asked Crimo whether he wanted to go forward.

“No,” he responded.

Many in the full courtroom had hoped to give statements in court Wednesday and were left baffled by the abrupt change. One man held up a middle finger to Crimo’s parents as they exited the courtroom ahead of a private meeting that prosecutors held with victims.

Prosecutors initially charged Crimo 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. He is scheduled for trial in February.

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.

Related Story: Mother recounts parade mass shooting that left her and son wounded

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. Crimo sat in a wheelchair during Wednesday's hearing, a change from prior appearances where he walked into and out of the room with deputies.

Christopher Covelli, deputy chief with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, said Crimo “informed our correctional staff this morning that he was nervous and unsure if he’d be able to walk in and out of the courtroom. For that reason, he was placed in a wheelchair for his movements.”

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.

Shooting July Fourth Parade
Visitors pay their respects, Thursday, July 7, 2022, at altars for the seven people killed in the Fourth of July mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois.

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.

Crimo's father declined to speak with reporters following Wednesday's hearing.

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