COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A Cook County judge on Monday found two men guilty of the brutal 2009 murder of a teen who refused to flash a gang sign — a murder prosecutors described as something "right out of the pages of the 'Lord of the Flies.' "
Almost four years after the shockingly brutal murder drew national headlines, Cook County Judge Maura Slattery Boyle found Jovanny Martinez and Erick Ortiz, both 15 at the time, guilty of first-degree murder.
Martinez, who pulled the trigger, faces a sentence of at least 45 years in prison, while the minimum sentence Ortiz faces is 20 years.
Prosecutors said that Alex Arellano, 15, was walking with a girlfriend he met on a social networking site in the Gage Park neighborhood in May 2009. The two were on their way to a birthday party when they were allegedly confronted by a group of teens demanding that Arellano throw a gang sign.
When Arellano refused, denying any gang affiliation, the gangbangers beat him with baseball bats, ran him over with a car, shot him in the head and then set him on fire, prosecutors said.
"They were flexing their Latin King muscles," said Assistant State's Attorney John Maher, recapping in closing arguments Monday how the street gang had "taken over" part of the city. "Essentially, if the Latin Kings don't like your haircut, they ... kill you."
Maher compared the "sheer brutality and depravity" of Arellano's murder to "something right out of the pages of 'Lord of the Flies,'" a classic novel about boys who turn into murderous "savages" when left to their own devices on a deserted island.
"So much for dignity in death," he said in reference to the decision to torch Arellano's body in an effort to destroy evidence.
Ortiz's defense attorney asserted that Arellano may have been in a rival gang.
But prosecutors said there was no evidence Arellano was in a gang. Judge Boyle said it wouldn't be relevant if he was.
"The carnage they inflicted is so base ... it's unimaginable what Alex endured," Boyle said, finding both defendants guilty of first-degree murder. "You believe that part of the city of Chicago somehow belongs to you. Nothing belongs to you, nothing."
Alisa Campos, 25, and Edgar Silva, 21, previously pleaded guilty in the murder.