Mount Prospect sergeant details investigation that led to arrest in fatal 2018 shooting
The Mount Prospect police sergeant who led the painstaking investigation into the fatal 2018 shooting of an Arlington Heights man found in a burned-out vehicle in a condominium complex parking lot testified Friday about the video recordings that led to the arrest of Paul Zalewski of Mount Prospect.
Zalewski, 25, is charged with first-degree murder, concealment of a homicidal death and other charges. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail at Cook County jail.
Sgt. William Ryan testified for more than five hours as prosecutors played videos obtained from businesses on Busse Road and Addison Court, which is where authorities say Zalewski killed 29-year-old Vladimir Esquivel after 10 p.m. Feb. 15, 2018. They say Zalewski shot Esquivel in the head, abdomen and arm inside Esquivel's Jeep Wrangler, which was parked outside an Addison Court auto body shop. Body shop surveillance video shows Zalewski entering and exiting the shop several times, during which the owner testified he asked for gloves, gasoline and a rag.
Police also obtained cellphone video from residents of the complex, which is located near the body shop. The cellphone video, taken shortly after midnight, showed the Jeep Wrangler in flames.
Ryan testified that commencing this kind of investigation means "we have to cast an incredibly wide net." That meant investigating Esquivel's co-workers, friends and social media account, which Ryan said included a profile of Zalewski.
Officers made impressions of footprints discovered in the snow behind a building near where the burning car was parked and followed those footprints until they ended at a foot bridge, Ryan said.
They subsequently "conducted a wider canvass," he said, referring to videos police obtained from nearby retail and commercial businesses and a red-light camera. Surveillance video from businesses near the body shop show what appears to be muzzle flashes inside Esquivel's Jeep. The video also shows Zalewski entering and exiting the Jeep several times before driving away about 10:30 p.m. in a white Chevy Malibu, which authorities say is registered to Zalewski's mother.
Ryan explained to jurors that by piecing together multiple videos showing the Chevy Malibu traveling in the areas of Busse Road, Addison Court and Cinnamon Cove, police established a timeline of Zalewski's comings and goings that night. Ryan also referenced previous testimony linking shell casings found in the basement of Zalewski's home to shell casings found in Esquivel's car. An Illinois State Police firearm expert earlier this week testified that the casings were fired from the same weapon. No weapon has been recovered.
Lastly, Ryan referenced a large bag of marijuana labeled Blue Dream that was packaged similarly to bags of marijuana recovered from Esquivel's apartment, one of which was labeled Purple Gorilla.
Testifying for the defense via Zoom, Barry Dickey, an expert in the forensic analysis of audio and video recordings, disputed what prosecutors described as muzzle flashes from inside Esquivel's Jeep that were captured by one of the Addison Court surveillance cameras. Dickey testified the flash of light was "inconsistent with a shot being fired." He said it came not from a weapon discharging but from a slight change in illumination caused by a person entering and exiting the vehicle.
"Nothing suggests that this was a muzzle flash" said Dickey, who attributed the reflection and light to environmental causes.
Closing arguments take place Tuesday in Rolling Meadows.