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Trial delayed for teen charged in drug-related homicide

Philip Vatamaniuc | Courtesy Lake County Sheriff's Office

Philip Vatamaniuc | Courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office

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Updated: February 27, 2014 3:43PM

A flurry of defense motions on behalf of Philip Vatamaniuc, one of several defendants charged in the murder of Highland Park resident Colin Nutter, continued Wednesday morning in Lake County Circuit Court.

Defense Attorney Robert Ritacca moved for a delay in the trial of Vatamaniuc, a 17-year-old Highland Park resident, from Jan. 6 to March 31, a motion Judge Victoria Rossetti granted.

In a move that wasn’t explained in open court, Ritacca also made a motion that the trials of Vatamaniuc and another defendant, Michael Coffee, 17, of Highland Park, be joined. Ritacca does not represent Coffee, and Rossetti said she cannot consider that motion until his attorney is notified.

“I want to be buddy-buddy with the other co-defendant in this case,” Ritacca told the judge.

Ritacca has also requested information from prosecutors, including summaries of phone calls Coffee has made from jail. And on another front, Ritacca also indicated he would like to explore a negotiated plea deal with prosecutors.

“I’m still open to try to resolve this case if the state so chooses,” he said.

A deadline to accept a plea deal from prosecutors has passed, but State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim could still approve a negotiated plea if he and prosecutors in the case were inclined to do so.

A motion by Ritacca to suppress the statement given to police by Vatamaniuc was denied by Rossetti Monday afternoon.

During that videotaped statement, Vatamaniuc said that he was in the back seat of Nutter’s car when Nutter was shot by a codefendant, Benjamin Schenk. He denied being part of any plot to kill Nutter and said he did not run away or contact police because he was scared of Schenk.

Vatamaniuc faces first-degree murder charges for the death of 20-year-old Nutter, as does Schenk, 20, of Highwood, and Coffee.

Police and prosecutors say Schenk, Vatamaniuc and Coffee, arranged a marijuana deal with Nutter the morning of the murder, and that the meeting took place in Nutter’s car, where he was shot and died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Nutter’s body was found near the Edens Expressway on June 3.

Police said Coffee also has made statements implicating Schenk as the shooter.

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