Villa Park murder-suicide spurs change in domestic-violence prosecutions

Last week’s tragedy in Villa Park ‒ where a man ordered to stay away from his wife instead went to their home and shot her to death before killing himself ‒ has spurred changes in how DuPage County prosecutors will handle domestic-violence cases.

State’s Attorney Robert Berlin told us Thursday he is instituting a new procedure to address what he calls a time issue with determining whether to ask that a person be held in custody while awaiting trial.

“We are going to do everything we can to make sure this never happens again,” Berlin said.

Detention can be ordered when a judge finds that a defendant is a danger to a specific person or the general public, and there are no other ways to mitigate the threat.

Under changes Berlin is instituting, police officers will now be required to call his office’s felony screening unit for all misdemeanor domestic battery cases involving an injury, to determine if prosecutors should ask to have the suspect detained.

Previously, police only called when requesting felony charges. Berlin also is adding a seventh prosecutor to the screening team, beefing up the overnight staffing.

He expects the changes will give the first-appearance-court prosecution team a leg up when they start their work day at 6 a.m., because the screening team can ask police officers questions that will help determine whether to seek detention.

Villa Park murder spurs change in domestic-violence prosecution

Berlin said the first-appearance team sometimes doesn’t have a lot of information, other than initial police reports, in time for the 8:30 a.m. court call. And if those reports are coming from an officer who caught a case at the end of a shift, they may be incomplete.

In the Villa Park case, Winston Elguezabal had been arrested the evening of April 12 on a misdemeanor charge that he pulled the hair of his wife, Julie Elguezabal, and hit her in the face, neck and back. Prosecutors did not file a request for detention.

The judge ordered Elguezabal wear an electronic monitor that would alert authorities if he came within 1,000 feet of the couple’s home, and to turn over any guns he possessed to police.

At the time, Berlin said, his prosecutors had no information from police reports or a supplemental domestic violence report about whether Elguezabal had access to firearms. The supplemental form can include background about the situation, such as if police have been to the house before, according to Berlin.

State Sen. John Curran

Last Friday night, Villa Park police received an alarm indicating Elguezabal was near the family home. But by the time officers arrived, Winston had shot Julie, then turned his weapon on himself, authorities said.

Berlin acknowledged that prosecutors can file a petition for detention and then ask for a continuance to gather more information. But a judge is free to say “no.” Or the judge might agree, but release the person during the continuance, Berlin said. A victim can also be called to testify, but Berlin said his office does not like to do that, to lessen their trauma.

Berlin said he was “devastated” to learn what happened in Villa Park. But as to whether his office should have done something differently?

“It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback as to whether we should have filed (for detention,)” he said. “Can we learn from this? Yes.”

State law change, too?

State Sen. John Curran of Downers Grove, minority leader for the Republicans, said at a news conference Wednesday he intends to submit a bill this week that would change the state’s cashless-bail law in regards to domestic battery charges.

The law currently says that every defendant is entitled to a presumption of release, and that prosecutors have to prove why measures such as electronic monitoring are not sufficient to ensure the safety of a specific person or the public.

Curran proposes that for misdemeanor domestic battery cases involving an injury, the burden of proof be shifted to the defendant. They would be detained automatically unless they could convince a judge they are not a threat.

“We need to flip that presumption,” Curran said. “The next tragedy that occurs, we are going to wish we had.”

Pay up or lockup?

Keep arguing you were right and go to jail, or just pay the bill?

A customer at a strip club in Kane County tried arguing last week that he shouldn’t have to pay the bill because he was overcharged for a private dance.

According to a sheriff’s report, the club called 911 when the man refused to pay a $200 tab. He told a deputy he would not do so since the dancer “was not even good-looking,” the report states.

The man said a dancer offered him a private dance for $50. He took her up on it, and they headed to a private room.

The club’s manager told deputies it was, indeed, $50 for a dance. But each dance is one song, and video showed the man was in the room for four songs, according to the report. And there is a sign outside the room explaining the prices.

Nonetheless, the man insisted he had been overcharged and refused to pay. What about the sign? “Well, if you were walking behind a half-naked female, would you be looking at signs?” the man asked, according to the report.

Deputies gave him two choices: Pay the bill, or be arrested on charges of theft.

He abandoned his complaint and paid.

• Do you have a tip or a comment? Email us at

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.