Trial to begin Monday for Mount Prospect man charged in 2018 shooting

He's charged with shooting Arlington Hts. man, burning body

  • Paul Zalewski

    Paul Zalewski

Updated 2/27/2022 8:56 PM

A little more than four years after Vladimir Esquivel's body was found in a smoldering Jeep Wrangler in Mount Prospect, the trial of the man who authorities say killed him begins on Monday.

Paul Zalewski, 25, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of the 29-year-old Arlington Heights man, who was found shortly after midnight on Feb. 16, 2018, shot to death inside the burning vehicle on the 1700 block of West Algonquin Road.


Zalewski, who also faces concealment of a homicide death and other charges, has pleaded not guilty. He is being held without bail at Cook County jail.

During Zalewski's bond hearing, prosecutors said Esquivel was shot once in the head and left hand, three times in the right arm and twice in the abdomen. He was dead by the time the car was set on fire, authorities said.

Surveillance video from Esquivel's apartment and a Mount Prospect auto body shop linked the two men on the night of the murder, according to prosecutors. They say surveillance video from inside Esquivel's apartment show him retrieving a bag of marijuana and leaving the apartment about 9:30 p.m. Feb. 15, 2018. Video from businesses near the body shop, located on Addison Court, show Esquivel's Jeep parked there about 10 p.m. that same night.

A short time later, prosecutors say, a white Chevrolet Malibu registered to Zalewski's mother parked near the body shop and Zalewski entered the Jeep's passenger side. Witnesses claimed Zalewski entered and exited the body shop multiple times and returned to the Jeep, prosecutors said. At one point, body shop surveillance video shows what prosecutors described as muzzle flashes inside the Jeep. Prosecutors say the white Malibu drove from and returned to Addison Court beginning about 10:30 p.m. They also say the white Malibu entered Chariot Court, a nearby Busse Road apartment complex, about 10:45 p.m.

Shortly after 11 p.m., an SUV drove down Addison Court, stopped briefly and left. Due to the surveillance angle, no one is seen exiting the SUV, prosecutors said. However, 30 minutes later, the Jeep began driving down Addison Court. Other surveillance video showed the Jeep entering the Cinnamon Cove apartment complex just before midnight, prosecutors said. A call reporting a burning vehicle came in at 12:03 a.m. Feb. 16, according to prosecutors who say no marijuana was recovered from the victim's Jeep. Minutes later, the white Malibu exited Chariot Court, they said.

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Several days later, prosecutors said, Zalewski contacted an undercover officer with a Chicago agency saying he had marijuana to sell. According to authorities, Zalewski twice sold undercover officers ketamine (a drug used for anesthesia) and MDMA (known as ecstasy) several months earlier. Those transactions took place at the body shop, prosecutors said. Zalewski and the undercover officer set up a meeting at the body shop. The defendant arrived driving the white Malibu, prosecutors said. When officers boxed him in, Zalewski responded by ramming their cars, prosecutors said. Police subsequently recovered a bag of marijuana from the trunk of the Malibu.

Shell cases from Esquivel's Jeep matched shell casings found in Zalewski's basement, authorities said.

Jury selection begins Monday at the Third Municipal District Courthouse in Rolling Meadows. Opening statements are expected to take place Tuesday.

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