Glenbrook South student remembered for his 'endearing spirit'
The Glenbrook South High School community on Friday was grappling with the loss of student Elias Valdez, who died Wednesday night in what has been ruled a homicide by the Cook County medical examiner's office.
Elias, 15, whom Glenbrook South officials described as a rising sophomore, is being remembered as "a kind, charismatic young man who exhibited great leadership qualities," Principal Lauren Fagel wrote in an email sent to the school community Friday that also offered grief support for students and staff members by Zoom and in-person.
Glenview police said it was the first murder in the village since the 2004 double-slaying of Mary Lacey and her mother, Margaret Ballog, by Lacey's ex-boyfriend Steven Zirko.
Police said a passerby found the boy lying in a grassy area around 7 p.m. Wednesday on the 1200 block of Greenwood Road; he'd apparently been stabbed in the chest. He was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, where he died during surgery.
A GoFundMe account to help pay for Valdez's funeral expenses was established by friend Becky Guadagno on Thursday afternoon with a goal of $15,000. By late Friday afternoon, however, the goal had been raised to $30,000, 530 donors already had raised $23,288, and the page had been shared more than 1,200 times.
Valdez was a wrestler at South; he took to it right away but still worked hard, according to the statement school officials said Fagel crafted with the help of Titans wrestling coach Pat Castillo and assistant coach Chris Albandia.
"Elias ventured into the sport of wrestling this past school year. Coaches immediately recognized natural ability, coupled with drive and work ethic," the statement said. "Elias really connected with wrestling, and he seemed to have found the brotherhood among his teammates that is often provided by sport.
"We're glad we had the time we did have with Elias and know a void has been left."
Valdez's killing is under investigation by the Glenview Police Department and the North Regional Major Crimes Task Force. Anyone with information is asked to call the Glenview Police Department's tip line at (847) 961-6055 or email email@example.com.
"We will miss Elias and his endearing spirit," Fagel said in her email. "We will always remember him as a true Titan."