Judge Rejects Plea Motion In Highland Park Murder Case
WAUKEGAN, Ill. (STMW) — Prosecutors revealed this week that they have a witness who told them that Philip Vatamaniuc allegedly admitted to being the shooter in the murder of Highland Park 20-year-old Colin Nutter last summer.
The information came out during a hearing Tuesday on a defense motion from Vatamaniuc’s attorney, Robert Ritacca, who asked Judge Victoria Rossetti to hold the state to a previous plea offer to his client.
But following arguments on the motion, Rossetti ruled that the state’s offer had expired last fall.
“There is no right a defendant has to a plea (agreement). Absolutely none,” Rossettii said. “In this court’s eyes, the offer has been terminated, or lapsed.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Reginald Mathews said the tentative offer, which was given in early fall and expired in October, would have had Vatamaniuc pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for cooperation during the trials of other defendants.
After the offer was tendered, a friend of Vatamaniuc allegedly came forward and gave a statement to prosecutors that Vatamaniuc had told him “he pointed a gun to the back of the victim’s head and shot,” Mathews said.
Ritacca argued that any such testimony is third-party hearsay and is “nothing that will be of any value at trial.”
Vatamaniuc’s trial is currently scheduled to begin June 16.
Vatamaniuc, 17, of Highland Park; Benjamin Schenk, 20, of Highwood; and Michael Coffee, 18, of Highland Park, have all been charged with first-degree murder in the case.
Court filings have pointed to both Schenk and Vatamaniuc as the potential shooter in the case.
Police and prosecutors say Schenk, Vatamaniuc and Coffee arranged to buy marijuana from Nutter the morning of the murder. They met in Nutter’s car, where he was shot and died of a gunshot wound to the head.
Nutter’s body was found June 3, 2013 lying in brush near the Edens Expressway on the east side of Frontage Road in Wilmette.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)