Testimony: Arlington Heights man was shot at close range; shell casings found in defendant's Mount Prospect home

  • Paul Zalewski

    Paul Zalewski

 
 
Updated 3/3/2022 9:47 PM

An assistant Cook County medical examiner testified Thursday that the Arlington Heights man found dead four years ago inside a burning vehicle was shot multiple times at close range, meaning the shooter was within a foot of the victim at the time the gun was fired.

Dr. Kristin Howell performed the autopsy on 29-year-old Vladimir Esquivel, who prosecutors say was shot to death late on Feb. 15, 2018, in the parking lot of an auto body shop on Addison Court in Mount Prospect. Esquivel's body was found shortly after midnight on Feb. 16, 2018, inside the charred remains of his Jeep Wrangler parked in the lot of a Mount Prospect condominium complex.

 

Charged with Esquivel's death is Paul Zalewski, 25, of Mount Prospect. The murder weapon has not been found, prosecutors said.

Zalewski has pleaded not guilty. His being held without bail at Cook County jail.

Members of Esquivel's family held each other and cried during Howell's description of his wounds which was accompanied by photographs showing a gunshot wound above his right ear, two to his abdomen; two to his right forearm, one to the back of his right arm and one to his left ring finger. Four of them were inflicted at close range, said Howell.

She testified Esquivel was shot at least four times and up to seven times, explaining during cross examination that some of the bullets might have gone through one part of the body and struck another part. Three projectiles were found in the victim's body and one was recovered later from his clothes. Howell also testified that while Esquivel's body evidenced heat-related injuries, it "appeared he had not been breathing when the fire occurred."

Thursday's proceedings also included testimony from members of the Major Case Assistance Team, a multijurisdictional task force that assists police departments with major crime investigations or suspicious deaths. Mount Prospect Police Sgt. Alison Teevan, MCAT's current director, described the task force's nearly 24-hour surveillance efforts which concluded with Zalewski's arrest about 7:20 p.m. Feb. 20, 2018, in the auto body shop parking lot.

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Wheeling detective and MCAT evidence technician Bret Potter testified he recovered a 9 mm shell casing from the Jeep's dashboard. He also recovered multiple shell casings (including 9 mm casings) as well as fired and live ammunition rounds from the basement of the defendant's Mount Prospect home.

Under cross examination from defense attorney Shelby Prusak, Potter acknowledged he could not tell when those bullets were fired, from what firearm or by whom. Illinois State Police firearms identification expert Alexis Bean testified that the 9 mm casings taken from Zalewski's basement and Esquivel's Jeep were fired from the same gun.

MCAT evidence technician and Prospect Heights Detective Sgt. Kevin Lange testified a search of Esquivel's apartment revealed seven large, sealed plastic bags containing what officers believed was marijuana. The bags were labeled with a black marker. Lange further testified a similar package of marijuana, with similar labeling, was recovered from the trunk of the white Chevy Malibu registered to Zalewski's mother, which video surveillance showed Zalewski driving the day of the murder and the day of his arrest.

Lange also testified he recovered a gun shop receipt dated Feb. 11, 2018, for $24.84 for a magazine of .45 caliber ammunition from the Malibu's center console.

Testimony continues Friday in Rolling Meadows.

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