Prosecutors: Evidence 'overwhelming' against Schaumburg man on trial for murdering neighbor
Calling the evidence "clear, straightforward and overwhelming," prosecutors Tuesday sought to link Bulmaro Mejia-Maya to the 2017 murder and sexual assault of his neighbor -- a woman who lived just 50 feet from him in the same Schaumburg apartment complex.
During opening statements Tuesday, Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Denise Loiterstein said DNA evidence, fingerprints, footprints and statements Mejia-Maya made to his Estrellas Drywall boss and co-workers tie him to the death of 32-year-old Tiffany Thrasher.
Assistant Cook County Public Defender Wendy Schilling, however, said during her opening statement that some evidence recovered at the scene was not tested. Suggesting someone else may have killed Thrasher, she referenced "another individual in the area who committed a similar crime."
Mejia-Maya has pleaded not guilty.
Speaking Tuesday afternoon during a break in the first day of Mejia-Maya's bench trial before Cook County Judge Steven Goebel, Thrasher's sister Misty King said her family wants "justice for our beloved Tiffany."
"This was a horrible tragedy no family should have to go through," said King, adding the family, including Thrasher's father and mother -- who wore a T-shirt honoring her daughter -- have faith in the judicial system.
Thrasher's friend and fellow Living Hope Church parishioner Cheryl Gleason described Thrasher -- a churchgoer, dog lover and Chicago Cubs fan -- as joyful, loving and caring.
"She was a great friend," testified Gleason, director of operations for the Elk Grove Village church. "And did I say joyful?"
Gleason testified she last saw Thrasher at the church's Good Friday service on April 14, 2017. When Thrasher did not show up for the 7 a.m. choir rehearsal or the subsequent services on April 16, 2017, Gleason called and texted numerous times. She and another congregation member went to Thrasher's home in the 2600 block of Clipper Drive shortly after 11 a.m. They saw Thrasher's car and knocked on the door but got no response, so they called 911.
"We learned our friend Tiffany was inside," Gleason said. "We remained there until 6 p.m. when they brought her body out of the building."
Testifying for the prosecution, Mejia-Maya's co-workers Javier Chinchilla and Arturo Herrara and their boss Artemio Ramirez said they spoke with Mejia-Maya by phone early on April 16. Each testified he made statements they understood to mean he hurt someone. They also said they didn't believe him because they thought he was drunk.
Chinchilla testified Mejia-Maya told him he killed a girl, that they had sex and he cracked her on the head with a bottle.
"I said 'you're crazy. That doesn't sound real,'" said Chinchilla, who didn't initially tell police what Mejia-Maya said.
Testimony continues Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.