COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A Cook County judge sentenced tagger Kristopher "Wicked" Klimala on Thursday to 12 years in prison for the 2012 stabbing of fellow graffiti artist Linear "Chip" Caballero.
During the sentencing hearing, Judge James Linn called the incident a chance encounter between Klimala and Caballero in which simmering bad blood led to the "savage killing" of Caballero.
"The chance encounter and the bad blood between the two made things explosive," Linn said.
In March, Klimala, 22, was found guilty of second-degree murder after he waived his right to a jury trial, agreeing to let Linn decide his fate in a bench trial.
On Jan. 21, 2012, Klimala was crossing the street near Armitage and Western avenues when he saw Caballero and Caballero's girlfriend sitting in a car at a red light about 5:40 p.m.
Caballero rolled down his window and yelled slurs at Klimala, who yelled back and walked toward the car, witnesses said. According to testimony, Caballero opened his door and began to step outside when Klimala approached and stabbed him in the neck during a brief struggle.
During the sentencing hearing, Caballero's mother, Mary Caballero told the court that life without her oldest son was empty.
"Losing a son is the worst feeling a mother could ever feel," Caballero said through tears. "I miss him every day. ... He will always be a 21-year-old — forever loved, forever lost."
In court, Klimala told the Caballero family that he was "deeply sorry for [their] loss."
Klimala described how his father's addiction led to his parents' separation and his father's murder when he was 14.
"I had no father to teach me values," Klimala said. "Although I know this does not excuse my actions ... I sincerely apologize, and I hope one day you find in your heart to forgive me."
Klimala's attorney, Aaron Goldstein, asked Linn to consider Klimala's difficult childhood in the sentencing.
"This is not to excuse for his action, but to help explain his upbringing," Goldstein said.
Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Hanus recommended significant time in prison for Klimala, describing his actions and demeanor leading up to the slaying.
"The defendant didn't keep walking," Hanus said. "He walked to the car and stabbed Linear multiple times. 'Stab' is an insufficient description — gouge would be more accurate. It was almost a perfect circle in Linear's neck. You could see through his throat."
After Klimala's arrest, "He was not remorseful. He boasted to police, calling Linear a "B****, among other things," Hanus said.
Before handing out Klimala's sentence, Linn called Caballero an "unconventional young man" referencing his tattoos and involvement in graffiti, and assured the Caballero family that he understood their loss.
"I can't pick up the pieces for all of the families, but I can assure you the life of Linear Caballero has been noted," Linn said. "I've listened and heard the pain, and it will not be forgotten."
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