The teenager charged in August 2020 with the stabbing death of 15-year-old Elias Valdez in Glenview was sentenced on Monday to three years probation and 100 hours of community service in exchange for his guilty plea to second degree murder.
Cook County Judge Steven Bernstein also ordered the 17-year-old high school student and his parents to attend counseling sessions. The judge ordered that the teenager’s name not be published.
Valdez was a sophomore at Glenbrook South High School and a member of the wrestling team. He was found in the grassy promenade of the 1200 block of Greenwood Road at around 7 p.m. on August 5, 2020, with multiple stab wounds to the chest. He died later that night during surgery at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. Police said it was the first killing in the village since 2004.
Authorities say Valdez intended to buy marijuana from the defendant. After Valdez tried to take the drugs without paying for them, the defendant sued him, authorities said. A struggle ensued in which Valdez found himself on top of the accused, who grabbed a utility tool containing a blade, according to reports. Valdez was stabbed in a subsequent struggle.
Describing the grief of the victim’s family, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Kline said, “The pain and pain of their loss is still acute and deeply felt.”
Valdez’s family members wanted the defendant charged with first degree murder and detained. Instead, he was charged with second-degree murder and placed under house arrest. Those orders sparked accusations of preferential treatment and led to protests at the Glenview Police Department and Skokie Courthouse in 2020.
In a victim impact statement read by Pastor Carl Guadagno, Valdez’s mother, Marcela Fierros, described her grief as “living in a dark tunnel that I cannot walk through,” but said her faith in God supported her.
“A mother does not expect to bury a child so young much less in such a tragic and overwhelming way,” Fierros wrote. “He was only 15 and had so many dreams to fulfill. … His goals were to graduate from high school, study law enforcement and become a police officer.
“When the defendant stabbed my son, he stabbed the hearts of my family.”
She said she did not believe justice was served through probation and community service and referred to “white privilege” in her statement, adding that she believed that if a Latino teenager had been charged with the murder of a Caucasian, he would have been tried as an adult “and spent years behind bars.”
Expressing support for the black and brown lives movement, defense attorney David Kerstein responded by saying, “There’s no privilege here. There’s no special treatment.”
Valdez was not a “poster kid” for those moves, Kerstein said, adding that the victim was a member of the wrestling team while his client “was a 97-pound weakling” whose head was slammed against the concrete six to 10 times by Valdez before the fight for the utility tool blade began. “It takes two to make a drug deal,” he said. “Mr. Valdez was a buyer.”
Bernstein referenced the sale of drugs in his comments to the defendant, who was accompanied by his parents.
“I see a child like you who has two caring parents…a bright child with a bright future, and I wonder what you’re doing in my courtroom,” Bernstein said. “I don’t think you’re a murderer, but you killed that child and you have to live with that for the rest of your life.”
Bernstein expressed his condolences to Fierros and his family for their loss.
“You’ll never get closure. I wish I could tell you that you will,” he said. “Your son will be in your heart forever.”