Schaumburg man guilty of sexually assaulting, strangling his neighbor
The verdict Tiffany Thrasher's family waited more than two years to hear came late Wednesday, when Cook County Judge Steven Goebel found the 32-year-old woman's neighbor guilty of sexually assaulting and strangling her in her Schaumburg apartment.
Goebel found Bulmaro Mejia-Maya, 32, guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault and home invasion, charges for which he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
"There's no question about your guilt," said Goebel, who described the April 15, 2017, attack as "brutal and barbaric."
According to prosecutors, Mejia-Maya entered Thrasher's apartment through a window, confronted her as she came out of the bathroom and pushed her onto the bed. A struggle ensued, during which he sexually assaulted and strangled Thrasher, who shared the apartment with a niece who was out of town at the time.
Mejia-Maya lived with five co-workers from Estrellas Drywall in an apartment 50 feet from Thrasher's home. Defense attorneys say their client assisted Thrasher with groceries that evening, which was the day before Easter. They say she invited him into the apartment and they had consensual sex, followed by an argument that turned deadly.
Goebel did not believe their claims.
"The victim fought back hard. She fought for her life," he said.
"This court doesn't believe for a minute she invited this defendant into her residence," he said, adding that Mejia-Maya "left his signature all over the crime scene."
Prosecution experts testified that DNA, footprints and fingerprints found at the scene matched those of Mejia-Maya. The defense rested without calling any witnesses.
Friends and family members described Thrasher as joyful, loving and a great friend who loved dogs and the Chicago Cubs.
"Bad things happen every day," Heath King, Thrasher's brother-in-law, said after the verdict, "but until the bad news affects you personally you never know the gravity. ... We're thankful for the apprehension, prosecution and conviction of the murderer. It won't bring Tiffany back, but justice has been served."
Thrasher's friend Cheryl Gleason, a fellow parishioner at the Living Hope Church in Elk Grove Village, said church members installed a bench in honor of Thrasher, who sang in the choir and attended a weekly Bible study.
"We continue to pray for this family and for our community," Gleason said. "We also know that what the enemy intended for evil, God can use for good."
Bulmaro Mejia-Maya faces 32 years to natural life in prison when he is sentenced, possibly as early as Aug. 13.