More than five years after 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down as she waited with friends inside a South Side park shelter, the two men charged with her murder will stand trial.
Judge Robert Ford on Tuesday set an April 30 date for the start of testimony in the trial of Michael Ward and Kenneth Williams.
Leaving the courtroom, Assistant State’s Attorney James Papa declined comment. Ward’s lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Julie Koehler, offered a brief statement.
“We set a date. We’re ready to go,” Koehler said.
Pendleton’s death, on Jan. 29, 2013, was one of the most high-profile slayings in Chicago in years, becoming a symbol of the toll of gun violence in the hometown of America’s first African-American president.
A week before she was shot, Pendleton had performed as a majorette with her King College Prep classmates at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in Washington, D.C.
First lady Michelle Obama attended the teen’s funeral, and Pendleton’s parents were in the Capitol gallery when President Obama mentioned Hadiya in his State of the Union address. Hadiya’s mother, Cleopatra Pendleton-Cowley became a prominent speaker on the topic of gun violence, and her father, Nate, opened a restaurant in the South Chicago on the third anniversary of the shooting.
Prosecutors say Hadiya was caught in the crossfire of a South Side gang feud, and that Ward, the alleged gunman, opened fire on a park shelter where the teen and her friends had gone to hide from the rain. Williams had driven Ward to a nearby alley, and Ward, thinking Hadiya and her group were members of a rival gang, opened fire, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors have said that Williams and Ward picked up friends minutes after the shooting, driving a white Nissan sedan that detectives would eventually use to link them to the crime. Thinking they’d been targeting rival gang members, the two told their friends they’d “done a drill”—shot at rival. Ward later confessed to detectives weeks later, after an hours-long interrogation.
But the two witnesses who said Williams and Ward had bragged about the shooting to them both have recanted their testimony, defense lawyers said. Ward’s lawyers had sought to block his confession from being used at trial, and last month lost a motion to have expert witnesses provide their analysis police tactics used in Ward’s interrogation.