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In re J.W.

February 09, 2004


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County 00 JD 5031 Honorable Edward N. Pietrucha, Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McBRIDE


J.W. was prosecuted under the "extended jurisdiction juvenile prosecutions" provision of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/5-810 (West 2000))(EJJ statute) for the stabbing of her mother. A jury convicted her of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(West 2000)). The court sentenced her to juvenile detention for a minimum of five years as required under section 5-750(2) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/5-750(2)(West 2000)) and the EJJ statute (705 ILCS 405/5-810(4)(i)(West 2000)). It further sentenced her to an adult sentence of 35 years' imprisonment (730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(a)(1)(West 2000)), which sentence was stayed pursuant to the EJJ statute (705 ILCS 405/ 5-810(4)(ii)(West 2000)).

At trial, the evidence showed that the victim, Ms. Walters, who was J.W.'s mother, and her boyfriend Christopher Morris had lived together for five years. In late August 2000, they moved from their one-bedroom apartment into a two-bedroom apartment in the same complex at 1931 Prairie Square, Schaumburg, Illinois, so that J.W., who was 13 years old at the time, could live with them. J.W. had previously lived with Ms. Walters' grandmother in Chicago. Ms. Walters pressured J.W. to move to Schaumburg because she was concerned that J.W.'s friends were a negative influence on her and that J.W. was going to get pregnant while she was young. J.W. did not want to move in with her mother, but she felt she had no choice. She moved to Schaumburg on Monday, August 28, 2000.

Her first day there, J.W. made an entry in her diary about killing her mother with a knife. She wrote the following, striking out certain portions:

"go and hide in the hall stab her in the back intill [sic] she dies come back in the house and call grandma. tell her my mom said she was going out to the car to get something that was like 20 minutes ago. I'm going to see where she's ate because she asked me to clean my glass mirror off but I don't see the windex leave out Oh ma ma-maDead grandma. Help somebody knock on someones door help my mom's has got stabed. Oh let me go get my folder out of her trunk while she's out their [sic] I'm about to she [sic] where she is Oh grandmama mama has got [illegible word] layene [sic] on the floor dead."

During the rest of the week, J.W. described that Ms. Walters "would wake up mad all the time" and "holler at [J.W.] for no reason." She explained:

"And she'd get mad about the dishes and I don't even know how to cut the dishwasher on. And then she get [sic] mad about my clothes and ask me why I can't be like other people, about something with some shirts. And just wanted me to be and dress like somebody I can't be."

Ms. Walters did not hit J.W. during the week they lived together.

On Friday, September 1, 2000, J.W. took a knife from the kitchen and put it inside her black purse. That day she thought about using the knife to kill her mother in the hallway, but she "didn't have the guts."

That night Ms. Walters' young cousins, nine-year-old Asia Ashley and eight-year-old Devonte Taylor, *fn1 spent the night at Ms. Walters' apartment. Ashley slept with J.W. in her unfurnished bedroom that night. On Saturday morning, September 2, 2000, Ashley and Taylor watched television until J.W. awoke and fed them. According to J.W., her mother got up around 1 p.m. "with a [sic] attitude" and started "hollering" at J.W. about breakfast for Ashley and Taylor. The lights went out in the apartment, and Ms. Walters called someone to fix the problem. Ms. Walters showered and dressed for a medical appointment. Meanwhile, J.W. took the knife from her black purse and put it in the back of her pants.

After she was dressed and ready, Ms. Walters went out to her Nissan Altima in the parking lot. Ms. Walters called back to the house for her sunglasses. J.W., who had been playing in her room with Ashley and Taylor, went outside. Ashley thought she heard J.W. slide something off of a table before going outside.

J.W. was having second thoughts about stabbing her mother when she came outside, but she knew her mother "was gonna holler if [J.W.] wouldn't of said nothing and came downstairs." J.W. approached the driver's side of her mother's car and knocked on the door. Ms. Walters "had a [sic] attitude and she was just like, what, what." J.W. opened the door and began stabbing her mother, first in the head, then in the arm. J.W. and Ms. Walters struggled. J.W. asked Ms. Walters if she loved Morris more than she loved J.W. and J.W.'s brother, Edward. Ms. Walters did not answer the question. She told J.W. to "stop."

At one point, Ms. Walters got the knife away from J.W. and stabbed J.W. in the hand. Ms. Walters, who was lying with her head near the passenger's door, opened the door and dropped the knife to the ground. J.W. went around the car and picked up the knife. Ms. Walters pulled J.W.'s hair. J.W. stabbed her mother more, eventually stabbing her in the stomach, where the knife got stuck. Ms. Walters was lying on the floor, underneath the dashboard, gasping for air--breathing "[l]ike she had asthma." Ms. Walters scratched J.W. on the neck and said "lord, let me die. And if you want to kill me, you need a bigger knife."

Fanlam Jing, a resident of 1931 Prairie Square, was in her car in the parking lot at approximately 3 p.m. on September 2, 2000. She noticed another car parked on her left-hand side, about two spaces away. A person was seated in the passenger's side. Her first impression was that the person was a young male with short dark hair. However, she could only see the person's head and was not sure whether her first impression was correct. She heard a slight noise and felt "a little uncomfortable and perhaps a little uneasy" when she noticed the person in the car.

J.W. was out of the apartment for 15 to 20 minutes before Ashley and Taylor noticed her absence. They looked through the apartment for her, and when they were unable to find her, they stepped out onto the apartment's balcony. They saw Ms. Walters and J.W. inside Ms. Walters' car. The two appeared to be wrestling. Ashley and Taylor threw berries at Ms. Walters' car to try to get J.W.'s attention. About the same time, two boys, Mike and Evan Harris, rode by on bicycles. J.W. got out of the car and yelled that someone had stabbed her mother. Ashley and Taylor called 911.

J.W. went back into the apartment. She made two calls and washed her hands and her face, which had blood "all over" them. She changed out of her white capri pants, which also had blood on them. She went into the kitchen and got a bread knife, which she took outside to the car. Ms. Walters was still lying on the floor, gasping for air. Her eyes were open and her fists balled up. J.W. climbed into the car and tried to stab her mother some more. Because the knife was not penetrating well, J.W. used the knife to cut her mother, rather than to stab her.

Ms. Walters was still breathing when J.W. decided to go back upstairs. J.W. put the bread knife inside a black garbage bag with her clothes. J.W. then took a third knife, a steak knife, from the apartment. When her cousins saw her getting the knife from the kitchen, she told them that she was "gonna [sic] kill whoever stabbed [her] mother." J.W. took the steak knife out to the car where her mother was lying, still in the same position, still gasping for air. J.W. stabbed her mother "a little" with the third knife "from her thighs on up." Ms. Walters was still gasping for air but "a little slower." J.W. began crying and then went back upstairs and threw the knife in the kitchen. One of her cousins picked up the knife and threw it in the garbage can.

At 3:57 p.m., the Schaumburg police and fire departments received a call regarding a stabbing at Walden Woods Apartments, at 1931 Prairie Square. Paramedics Steven Lafin and Eric Marto arrived at the scene and were directed by two boys on bicycles to a car in the parking lot. Lafin looked inside the car and saw "an African-American female with her upper body, her head and chest on the passenger's side with her head down towards the floor on the passenger's side with her feet up on the driver's side seat." Officer Mike Carroll, a Schaumburg police officer, who arrived at about the same time, "observed the female [occupant] slumped over from driver side into the passenger seat near the floor board area passenger seat of the vehicle." There were large amounts of blood in the interior of the car, and some had leaked from the car onto the ground. A black handle was protruding from Ms. Walters' abdomen.

The paramedics removed Ms. Walters from the car. She was still breathing, but she had no pulse. She had "multiple lacerations and stab wounds to the throat, the chest area, the left forearm had multiple lacerations to the front side of her forearm, both hands had stab wounds." At one point, her heart stopped, but the paramedics were able to get her heart beating again. They transported Ms. Walters to Northwest Community Hospital, where she was treated by Dr. Robert Rao.

When Rao, a general and trauma surgeon, first encountered Ms. Walters in the emergency room at Northwest Community Hospital, she had no vital signs and "was dead or very close to dead."

"[S]he had multiple stab wounds, especially in the arms. Her arms looked sort of like hamburger. *** With large amounts of blood coming out of both arms. She had multiple little stab wounds to the chest and abdomen. And there was a large knife sticking out of her abdomen or the handle sticking out of the abdomen. And she had a tube in her neck, a tracheostomy tube that was breathing for her."

Rao and other doctors were able to get Ms. Walters' pulse back and her heart beating again, but only for about 10 minutes. Ms. Walters was pronounced dead at 5:34 p.m. At some point, Rao removed the knife from Ms. Walters' abdomen. He did not suffer any cuts while doing so.

In the parking lot at 1931 Prairie Square, Carroll noticed three children nearby. One of them was J.W.; she was crying. "[H]er shirt had blood on it," front and back. She also had cuts on her hands. She told Carroll and Schaumburg police detective Vince Liberio that she did not know who had hurt her mother. She said "she had seen a female -- female teenager approximately 14 years of age running westbound from the area of the vehicle when she had returned from the apartment to retrieve sunglasses for her mother." J.W. requested to use the restroom, and Carroll took her into the apartment.

Inside the apartment, J.W. led Carroll to a hallway bathroom, where, "on the tile floor[,] there were what appeared to be diluted blood droplets on the tile floor." Carroll did not allow J.W. to enter that bathroom; instead, J.W. used the bathroom adjacent to the master bedroom. Carroll did a cursory search of the rest of the apartment and "observed an open garbage can basket *** on the kitchen floor," on top of which a bloody knife was lying. While in the apartment, J.W. removed the bread knife from the black garbage bag in her bedroom and put it in the pillow case of her pillow. Carroll and J.W. left the apartment, and the apartment was sealed off.

At approximately 4:30 p.m., on September 2, 2000, Karen Brzezicki, a paramedic with the Schaumburg fire department, arrived at the scene in a second ambulance. Brzezicki examined J.W. and noticed "lacerations on her right hand down the center of her palm. On her left hand she had another laceration toward the outside of her hand *** by her small finger. She also had minor lacerations to her face toward *** her chin area." Additionally, J.W. had an abrasion on her left arm. Brzezicki and her partner bandaged J.W.'s hands. ...

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