Mundelein teen pleads guilty to sister's fatal stabbing
A 15-year-old Mundelein girl wiped away tears Tuesday as she admitted to a Lake County judge she stabbed her half-sister to death in the bedroom of the family's townhouse about one year ago.
As part of her negotiated plea to first-degree murder, the girl was sentenced to juvenile prison until her 21st birthday, Judge Valerie Ceckowski said. Under law, she will be eligible for parole after serving five years.
The teen was also ordered to have "intensive mental health evaluations" while serving her prison time.
She is not being named by the Daily Herald because of her age and due to previous judicial instructions.
The girl repeatedly tapped her foot and quietly repeated, "Yes, judge," when asked by Ceckowski if she understood various portions of the plea agreement during the juvenile court hearing. When Ceckowski asked her if she was guilty, she cried and responded, "Yes, your honor. I am truly sorry."
Her mother and the father of the victim also told the judge they understood the plea agreement when asked by Ceckowski in court.
Defense attorney Michael Conway did not comment after the plea agreement was finalized Tuesday.
Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim dropped two of the three first-degree murder counts against the teen in exchange for the negotiated plea agreement.
The girl has been housed at the Robert W. Depke Juvenile Justice Center near Vernon Hills since she was accused of repeatedly stabbing her half-sister, 11-year-old Dora Betancourt, in the younger girl's bedroom Jan. 21, 2014. The girls were home alone at the time, authorities said.
The teen, who was 14 at the time, confessed to authorities she killed Betancourt because she felt unappreciated.
Nerheim said in court the teen first called police and said there was an intruder in her house in the 1600 block of Woodhaven Court. She later confessed on video to the stabbing, Nerheim said.
As state's attorney, he had the right to charge the teen as an adult and transfer the case to felony adult court.
The case has been delayed by both sides while psychological exams were conducted.
After Tuesday's hearing, Nerheim would not go into detail to explain why he elected to keep the case in juvenile court. However, he said the teen will be able to better receive the extensive mental health treatment she requires in juvenile prison.
"We did an extensive psychological evaluation," Nerheim said. "After completion of the report, we are as convinced as we can be that she will get the treatment she needs in the juvenile department of corrections."
He added the plea agreement ensures justice for Betancourt and safety for the community.
Despite already receiving her prison term, the teen will appear in juvenile court once more for a formal sentencing hearing March 3. Nerheim said prosecutors will release more details to the court at that time.