A Mundelein teen accused in the stabbing death of her 11-year-old half-sister pleaded not guilty Friday in Lake County juvenile court to three counts of first-degree murder.
The proceeding before Judge Valerie Ceckowski at the Robert W. Depke Juvenile Justice Complex near Vernon Hills came two days after the funeral for fifth-grader Dora Betancourt, who authorities said met a violent death at her home Jan. 21.
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Dressed in the dark blue uniform of juvenile detention facility, the 14-year-old sat grim-faced while providing yes and no answers to a series of questions regarding the charges and other aspects of the proceeding posed by Ceckowski.
The girl's mother and father were to her immediate left at a large square table where lawyers and others were seated. Her stepfather stood behind her in the tiny courtroom.
Before she reviewed the charges, Ceckowski addressed the teen.
"If you have any questions, I want you to ask. Understood?" Ceckowski asked. "Yes," the girl responded in a clear tone.
She had the same responses when asked by Ceckowski if she understood the words in the charges stating her actions carried the probability of the death of her half-sister. She also answered "yes" when asked if she understood there would be a trial, that she was presumed innocent, and, that the burden of proof fell to the state.
The Daily Herald is not publishing the 14-year-old's name out of respect for court instructions that she not be identified.
The Lake County State's Attorney's office has not decided whether to take the case to adult court.
As such, the case remains in juvenile court. Ceckowski told the teen one possible outcome is she could be sentenced to a juvenile detention facility until she was 21.
"It's our hope and goal to keep the matter here in juvenile court," said Waukegan attorney Michael J. Conway, who pleaded not guilty on the girl's behalf. Conway said he had received some CDs and recordings from prosecutors but was waiting for more reports.
He said he wants to hire a psychologist to examine the girl and prepare a report to be used in her defense. That process would take five to six weeks, he said.
Conway also was granted a request to allow his client time to visit with her parents while they were at the complex.
A status date was set for Feb. 14, with a pretrial date set for March 14.
According to authorities, Dora Betancourt was killed in her bedroom, stabbed more than 30 times with a kitchen knife. The girls were home alone at the time.
Authorities said the 14-year-old killed her half-sister because she felt unappreciated.