Testimony begins in 2013 Wheeling shooting trial

  • Collin J. Scheffler

    Collin J. Scheffler

  • Jesus E. Sanchez

    Jesus E. Sanchez

 
 
Updated 9/8/2014 6:57 PM

A flurry of activity Monday suggested a plea agreement might be in the works for Collin Scheffler, charged with the 2013 slaying of Rafael Orozco, who was shot to death while walking his dog Gizmo and talking with acquaintances near his Wheeling home.

But that was not to be. Instead, Scheffler's bench trial on charges of first-degree murder got underway in front of Cook County Judge Thomas Fecarotta.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Prosecutors say Scheffler, 20, of Prospect Heights, drove the car carrying Jesus E. Sanchez, who authorities say was aiming at a rival gang member when he shot Orozco by mistake about 9 p.m. May 1, 2013, in the 400 block drive of Pleasant Run Drive in the Winetree Apartments complex.

Scheffler, his girlfriend and another friend were in Scheffler's car smoking marijuana that evening when Sanchez and several of his friends approached, said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Crowe during opening arguments. While they were hanging out, Sanchez, known as Smokey, became increasingly angry over an altercation earlier that day involving him, several friends and one of their former gang members who had left their gang and joined another, Crowe said.

"He (Sanchez) stated his intentions and display the revolver and Collin Scheffler knowingly drove him to exact his revenge," Crowe said, adding that physical evidence, red-light camera video and Scheffler's videotaped statement would confirm Scheffler was the driver.

"Collin Scheffler is not and never was a gang member," said defense attorney Michael Mayfield, who claimed the statement his client made to police -- over 11 hours of questioning and under pressure from detectives -- is false and "doesn't fit the facts."

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"The police are fashioning a statement ... They only take the answers that fit their theory of the case and nothing else," he said.

When the shots rang out everybody ran, added Mayfield, meaning nobody saw the shooter.

Miquel Cortes, 16, testified he spent most of the afternoon of May 1, 2013, with fellow gang member Sanchez. He confirmed that Sanchez and some other gang members fought with the 15-year-old former gang member who prosecutors say was Sanchez's intended target. Cortes testified Sanchez retrieved a machete hidden in some bushes in the apartment complex to confront the teen and his current gang, but that scuffle was broken up by the mother of one of the teens involved.

Cortes also confirmed prosecutors' account that Sanchez and his friends met up with Scheffler and his friends about 8:30 p.m. He stated he and a female friend left the group and ran into his father, Orozco and some other people talking under a streetlight. He testified they asked him not to bring his acquaintances to the complex "because they were causing problems."

Cortes testified he heard what he initially thought were firecrackers. Realizing it was gunfire, he, his father and Orozco ran toward the nearest building. When he and his father turned, they realized Orozco had been shot in the chest. Cortes acknowledged under cross examination that he did not see the shooter.

Testimony continues Tuesday in Rolling Meadows.

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