Highland Park parade shooting suspect rejects guilty plea deal, crushing victims’ families: ‘Evil and manipulative’

Written by on June 26, 2024

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(HIGHLAND PARK, Ill.) — The suspected Highland Park, Illinois, mass shooter declined to change his plea to guilty at a Wednesday hearing, crushing victims’ families who watched on in the courtroom.

Robert Crimo III is accused of killing seven people and injuring dozens of others in the mass shooting at a 2022 Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park.

Crimo was expected to plead guilty to seven counts of murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm at the hearing, according to The Associated Press. Instead, the 23-year-old rejected the agreement, which would have sentenced him to life.

Crimo is scheduled for trial in February 2025.

“We came to court today in hopes that we could put this out of our mind,” Leah Sundheim, whose mother, Jacquelyn Sundheim, was killed, said at a news conference Wednesday.

“We have Fourth of July coming up and it will be two years,” she said. “All I wanted was to be able to fully grieve my mom without the looming trial, knowing that he was going to spend the rest of his life in jail. And instead, we were yet again shown [Crimo’s] complete and blatant disregard for humans.”

“[Crimo] is evil and manipulative, and brought us here today probably knowing what he was going to do,” she said. “I think that he has very little control, and he will exercise every bit he has — and does not care who he hurts.”

Tony Romanucci, an attorneys for some of the victims’ relatives, added, “This was a calculated effort on his part to continue the suffering that our clients are going through.”

Also among those killed were Highland Park residents Irina McCarthy, 35, and Kevin McCarthy, 37, who were at the parade with their 2-year-old son.

Lance Northcutt, an attorney for the McCarthy family, said Wednesday’s hearing revictimized the families.

Crimo “came to court today with one goal in mind: to continue the terror that began on July 4, 2022,” Northcutt said.

But Karina Mendez, whose dad, Eduardo Uvaldo, was killed, said she’ll be “patient with the court system,” adding that’s what her father would be telling her to do.

“It’s hard just to come in here and see the person that took my dad,” Mendez said. “I was hoping for closure — that was the goal for today, to be done with this.”

“My dad was somebody who loved his family. And we’ve stuck together through all this — we’re gonna keep sticking together,” she said.

Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart made a brief statement after Wednesday’s hearing. He said prosecutors will continue to support the survivors and the victims’ families, adding, “We will be ready for trial.”

ABC News has reached out to Crimo’s attorneys for comment.

Crimo’s father, Robert Crimo Jr., pleaded guilty last year to reckless conduct, admitting to signing the Firearm Owner’s Identification card for his son to apply for gun ownership.

The younger Crimo was 19 at the time and and too young to get a FOID card on his own. Illinois at the time required people ages 18, 19 or 20 to have parent or guardian authorization.

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