LITTLE VILLAGE — The 16-year-old charged in the slaying of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega was on probation at the time of the murder after pleading guilty to two carjackings last fall, a prosecutor said.
The teen is charged as an adult with first-degree murder and multiple gun charges. Judge Susana Ortiz ordered the teen, who is charged as an adult, and his alleged accomplice held without bail Thursday.
Prosecutors allege the two were caught on multiple surveillance videos going to the scene of the murder and then fleeing Saturday. Both were captured on camera going to a Subway sandwich shop to eat immediately after Melissa was killed. The video showed them laughing, without “a care in the world,” Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said at the hearing.
Xavier Guzman, 27, who was accused of driving the teen to the shooting in his marked taxi, is charged with murder, attempted murder and unauthorized use of a weapon.
Melissa was shot and killed Saturday afternoon in Little Village while she walked down the street with her mother on the 4000 block of West 26th Street. Police said Melissa and her mother were not the intended targets of the shooting, which was related to an ongoing gang conflict.
On Saturday afternoon, Guzman was driving the distinctly marked cab when he picked up the teen from his home and drove him to bustling 26th Street, the prosecutor said. A 29-year-old man flashed gang signs as the car drove by, Murphy said.
Then, the 16-year-old got out of the cab and fired multiple shots on the street crowded with people, Murphy said. The 29-year-old man was shot in his lower back.
Bullets also struck a nearby car with a 47-year-old man and his 9-year-old daughter inside, but they were not injured, Murphy said.
Melissa and her mother, Araceli Leaños, began running down the street. Melissa was shot in the head and died, the prosecutor said.
The shooter and Guzman fled the scene in the cab, and went to a Subway where they bought sandwiches and were seen laughing without “a care in the world,” Murphy said. Then they drove to a gas station to get drinks, the prosecutor said.
Murphy said the shooter’s face is not clearly seen on video during the shooting. The shooter was wearing a dark jacket with the hood up and a black face mask. But the 16-year-old is seen on video in that same outfit in the Subway sandwich shop, and again with his face clearly visible on video at a gas station later that day, Murphy said.
Later Saturday night, the same GPS-tracked cab twice drove by Melissa’s vigil at the spot where she died, Murphy said.
When police tracked down Guzman’s car and arrested him Monday, they found a fingerprint on the passenger side of the car that was later matched to the 16-year-old, the prosecutor said. Police also found a gun in the cab that matched casings found at the shooting, he said.
Guzman’s phone, which was recovered by police, had a video with him saying he was in the area of the shooting when Melissa was killed and referred to the shooter with the 16-year-old’s nickname, Murphy said. It also showed communication between Guzman and the teen, he said.
During Thursday’s hearing, a defense attorney argued the shooting was instigated by the 29-year-old who was flashing gang signs on the street as Guzman and the teen drove by. Prosecutors rejected that.
In ordering both held on no bail, Ortiz said the teen and Guzman presented a danger to the community.
“To fire firearms, anywhere for that matter, within the confines of the city of Chicago, but certainly on that date, time and location shows an absolute disregard for human life,” Ortiz said. “Once again we see today that it is easier for children to obtain firearms than it is for them to obtain a packet of cigarettes. Firearms in the hands of someone this age constitute weapons of mass destruction.”
The 16-year-old pled guilty to two carjackings and was on probation at the time of the shooting, Murphy said. The Sun-Times reports the teen was armed in both previous carjackings, and hit one victim in the face with a gun.
In January 2021, he was charged in a carjacking that happened Jan. 19, 2021. He was released on electronic monitoring in February, Murphy said.
In March 2021, the 16-year-old was charged in a second carjacking that happened Jan. 10 of that year. He was released from electronic monitoring and put on a curfew in April, Murphy said.
He then was charged in a carjacking that happened May 27, 2021. He was released on electronic monitoring in June. In August, the electronic monitoring was terminated by a judge and he was placed on a curfew, the prosecutor said.
The 16-year-old pled guilty to two carjackings in October and he was sentenced to three years probation in December, Murphy said.
Guzman did not have any known criminal history, the defense attorney said.
Melissa and her mother had just immigrated to Chicago from Mexico in August. A GoFundMe has raised over $86,000 as of Thursday — well over the $20,000 goal — to pay for a funeral and bring her body back to her hometown of Los Sauces in Tabasco, Mexico.
In a devastating interview Monday, Melissa’s mother called for the person who killed her daughter to be brought to justice.
“You took my entire life,” Leaños said in Spanish during an interview with Univision’s Despierta America. “You took the most beautiful thing, you took my reason for living … You have taken dreams from a marvelous girl.”
In a prepared statement read at a press conference announcing the charges Wednesday, Leaños said she planned to buy her daughter a hamburger after they ran to the bank the day she was killed.
“I wasn’t able to fulfill that promise,” she said, as her daughter stopped holding her hand and fell to the ground in a pool of blood.
She told the community: “Let Melissa be the last child that dies from gun violence in this neighborhood. … No mother should have to bury her own child.”
Leaños also repeated comments from a previous interview, in which she told her daughter’s killer she forgives them.
“You were a victim, too,” Leaños said. “As a 16-year-old, the community failed you just like it failed my precious baby. Although, I do hope that in the many years you spend in prison, you get time to reflect on your actions because you took away the most valuable thing I had in my life, my princess Melissa.”
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