Arlington Heights man gets 45 years for killing dog walker
A 20-year-old Arlington Heights man was sentenced Monday to 45 years in prison for killing Rafael Orozco, a Wheeling resident who was walking his dog when he was struck in the back by a bullet prosecutors say was meant for another man.
Jesus Sanchez faced a maximum sentence of life in prison but was sentenced to the minimum by Cook County Judge Thomas Fecarotta, who noted Sanchez had no prior record before his arrest for the May 1, 2013, shooting in the Winetree Apartment complex.
"Even the minimum sentence is harsh," Fecarotta said.
Orozco, 23, was out walking his dog Gizmo about 9 p.m. when he stopped to talk with some neighbors under a streetlight. Police say Sanchez was aiming at a 17-year-old gang member who had switched his allegiance.
Orozco's mother, Irma Gallo, described her son as a happy, kind person who always had a smile on his face, loved to joke around and enjoyed spending time with his nieces and nephews.
"He was a family man. To him his family was most important," she said.
Gallo described the grief of Orozco's wife, Mayra, who "lost the person she loved most, who she expected to spend her life with."
"He was my son," Gallo said, as she raised a photograph of Orozco. Turning to the Sanchez family, she repeated, "He was my son."
Prosecutors pointed to Sanchez's videotaped confession to Wheeling detectives as evidence of his guilt. Assistant State's Attorney Mike Gerber described Sanchez as "coldblooded, heartless and cowardly."
"He fired four shots into a group of people when it was dark enough to do so without being seen," said Gerber. "He shot this man down where he lived, in his personal sanctuary."
Defense attorneys argued police extracted a false confession over hours of interrogation during which Sanchez, then 18, insisted he didn't do it, sobbed repeatedly and asked for his mother.
Testifying on his son's behalf, Gustavo Sanchez described him as a good son who worked at a restaurant, played soccer and attended services with his family at the New Life International Church, whose members have attended hearings and the trial in support of the family.
"They attend because they believe in his innocence," Gustavo Sanchez said.
"I believe that he was accused unjustly. There was no physical evidence and his confession was coerced," he said after the sentencing.
Former co-defendant Collin Scheffler, who was acquitted in September, attended the trial to support Sanchez, an acquaintance who he was hanging out with that night.
"I know he didn't do this shooting, that's why I'm showing up," said Scheffler.
Assistant Public Defender Julie Koehler feels optimistic about their appeal. Scheffler, who authorities say drove the getaway car, also implicated himself to police, she noted.
"There are two confessions in direct opposition to each other, and the guy who ended up with 45 years is the guy whose confession doesn't match the evidence," she said after the sentencing. "It's unfortunate. The white kid gets to walk and the Hispanic kid has to do 45 years. It's sad."