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updated: 2/19/2013 5:10 AM

Trial set for Wheaton man accused of fatally stabbing neighbor

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  • Michael Delaney

      Michael Delaney

 

A Wheaton man plans to argue self-defense when he stands trial this week in the stabbing death of his neighbor, Micheal Scalzo.

Michael Delaney, 49, is accused of killing the 40-year-old victim in a June 21, 2009, confrontation on the 700 block of Crescent Street in Wheaton. He's charged with first-degree murder.

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The slaying happened days after Delaney's girlfriend moved out and he began behaving erratically, according to court records. Authorities said Scalzo, who lived in an adjacent apartment building, gave refuge to the woman and was killed when Delaney attacked him in a nearby parking lot.

Scalzo was stabbed six times in the upper torso, according to police, who identified nine witnesses. It happened as Scalzo, a mechanic, gathered with several neighbors and friends, including Delaney's ex-girlfriend, at a garage where he was working.

Authorities said Delaney walked by the group and made repeated death threats before Scalzo was slain. Prosecutors suspect Delaney also carved "will kill" into a door in Scalzo's building where Delaney's former girlfriend was staying at the time. The defense contends there's no evidence tying Delaney to the carving.

Scalzo met Delaney about 9 p.m. outside the garage, but authorities said he tried to walk away when a physical confrontation erupted. That's when he was repeatedly stabbed, according to prosecutors.

Police said they arrested Delaney as he tried to run away. They found a knife near the scene.

Last year, defense attorneys said post-traumatic stress disorder might have factored into the killing. But Delaney -- an Army veteran who said he developed the condition after witnessing a military accident in the 1980s -- no longer plans to raise that issue in his defense, DuPage County Assistant Public Defender Brian Jacobs said in court last week, calling it a "strategic decision."

Jacobs declined to elaborate Monday but confirmed Delaney would argue self-defense.

"We're looking forward to our day in court so our client can show his innocence," Jacobs said.

Scalzo, who went by the nickname "Motorcycle Mike" and was remembered as a mechanic with a big heart, died about a week after police found a newborn child abandoned outside his apartment building. He had talked about setting up a fund for abandoned children because of the experience but was slain before he had a chance, a family member confirmed.

Delaney remains jailed on $3 million bail and would face 20 to 60 years in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. But prosecutors said they will seek an extended term of up to natural life. The jury would have to find the killing was "cold and calculated" for Delaney to be eligible for an extended term. He previously served time for aggravated battery.

Jury selection begins Tuesday, with opening statements tentatively set for Wednesday. The trial is expected to last about a week, with Judge Daniel Guerin presiding.

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