Officer describes grisly crime scene as Mount Prospect murder trial continues

  • Paul Zalewski

    Paul Zalewski

 
 
Updated 3/2/2022 6:00 PM

Members of Vladimir Esquivel's family shed silent tears and clutched each other Wednesday during testimony from the police officer assigned to photograph the scene where the Arlington Heights' man's body was found shortly after midnight on Feb. 16, 2018, in his burned-out Jeep.

Paul Zalewski, 25, is charged with fatally shooting the 29-year-old Esquivel late on Feb. 15, 2018, in the parking lot of a Mount Prospect body shop. Esquivel's body was found in his vehicle, which had been set ablaze, in the parking lot of a Mount Prospect condominium complex.

 

Zalewski, of Mount Prospect, has pleaded not guilty. He is being held without bail at the Cook County jail.

Wheeling police officer Bernie Conboy -- then a member of the Major Case Assistance Team established to assist suburban police departments with major cases and suspicious deaths -- testified the front driver's side appeared to have sustained the most fire damage, including holes in the roof and windshield.

His testimony accompanied crime scene photographs showing the Jeep's charred interior. Inside the vehicle, Conboy found Esquivel lying face down, with his head near the front passenger floorboard, his torso over the center console and his legs in the rear. He appeared to have burn marks on the left side of his body, Conboy said.

"We could see what appeared to be bullet holes in different areas of the body," including the torso, right arm and head. Conboy said.

After the medical examiner picked up Esquivel's body from the fire department where the Jeep was initially processed, the vehicle was towed to a Mount Prospect police station for additional processing. Conboy testified police recovered one shell casing wedged beneath the dashboard and the windshield and another on the floor near the front passenger seat.

Prosecutors also showed jurors Conboy's photographs of footprints in the snow along a fence line behind a building near where the Jeep was found. The footprints appeared to be moving away from the vehicle and "were spaced apart as if someone would have been running," Conboy said.

Following the footprints, officers came to a chain-link fence where the footsteps stopped, then resumed on the other side, Conboy said. Officers followed the footprints to a walking path where they were no longer visible.

Testimony continues Thursday in Rolling Meadows.

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