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14-year-old pleads not guilty to stabbing death of sister

A message hope is seen sign lobby Depke Juvenile Justice Complex VernHills.  | Jim Newton/Sun-Times Media

A message of hope is seen on a sign in the lobby of the Depke Juvenile Justice Complex in Vernon Hills. | Jim Newton/Sun-Times Media

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‘Societal’ Look

Two professors at the The John Marshall Law School in Chicago say officials need to take a comprehensive, “societal” look at whether to try the girl as an adult.

“The treatment of the Lake County teenager accused of killing her younger sister is ripe for restorative justice,” according to Michael Seng and Sheila Murphy, co-directors of The Restorative Justice Project at John Marshall.

Seng and Murphy for decades have supported what they call “the societal benefits of restorative justice,” and John Marshall is one of just two law schools in the country with a restorative justice program. Restorative justice asks all members of the legal community to thoughtfully reconsider their roles with an eye to replacing or supplementing retribution with restoration, according to Seng and Murphy.

Updated: April 2, 2014 3:45AM

The 14-year-old Mundelein girl accused of killing her 11-year-old half-sister on Jan. 21 pleaded not guilty Friday to three counts of first-degree murder.

The girl’s arraignment took place before Judge Valerie Ceckowski in a juvenile courtroom at the Depke Juvenile Justice Complex in Vernon Hills, where she is being kept in custody.

The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office has not yet decided whether to request that the girl be tried as an adult on allegations she stabbed her half sister more than 30 times at their Woodhaven Court home.

The girl sat at a table during her arraignment with her attorney, Michael Conway, and her mother and father. Her stepfather was also in attendance. She seemed visibly upset.

After Ceckowski explained the charges to the eighth-grader, the girl pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree murder with intent to kill or cause great bodily harm in the death of her half-sister, one count of stabbing the 11-year-old with the knowledge that such action could cause death and one count of murder with the knowledge that the action could cause great bodily harm or death.

She is currently charged as a delinquent minor.

“It is our hope and goal to try to keep the matter here in juvenile court,” defense attorney Michael Conway told Ceckowski after the pleas were entered. He said he and the family plan to retain the services of a psychologist to help assess the defendant as Conway prepares a mitigation report.

State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim reiterated Friday that he has made no decision regarding whether he will petition to have the girl charged as an adult. He said he plans to review reports and speak with the family and he does not expect a decision in the near future.

Ceckowski said that if the girl is convicted or pleads guilty as a juvenile, as she is currently charged, she could be held in juvenile custody up until her 21st birthday or, under some circumstances, could be placed in a monitored outside home.

Officials have said that if she is tried and convicted as an adult, she would be held in juvenile custody for several years but then could be transferred to the Illinois Department of Corrections to serve an adult prison term for first-degree murder, which can range from 20 to 60 years.

Ceckowski set a Feb. 14 status date for the girl, and a pretrial date of March 14.

The girl’s parents did not comment as they left the juvenile facility, but another relative said “we’re just really sad,” before entering his car and driving away.

The girl allegedly stabbed her 11-year-old half sister on the morning of Jan. 21 in a fit of anger, with officials saying she told the victim that she did not appreciate the work she did for her as she repeatedly stabbed the girl with a knife.

According to officials, the girl initially told police an intruder killed her half-sister, leading to a brief lockdown of nearby schools.

She later confessed when confronted with evidence including hair strands found in the victim’s hands.

Sun-Times Media is not naming the victim because she shares a name with the minor charged in the case.

At the request of Assistant State’s Attorney Claudia Kasten, Ceckowski on Friday reaffirmed an order she issued Jan. 22 that the name of the minor as well as the victim “shall not be disclosed” and that the directive remained in “full force for everyone here today.”

The case has been reported nationally, drawing attention in part due to the age of the defendant.

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