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Stolen debit card, DNA leads to charges against 2 in fatal NW Side stabbing

Luis Florian-Olivares | Cook County sheriff's office

After stabbing a 32-year-old man to death on the Northwest Side, the alleged killer stole his credit card, burned the victim’s car and went on a spending spree that eventually led to his capture, Cook County prosecutors said.

Luis Florian-Olivares, 23, appeared in court Thursday to face a charge of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of 32-year-old Mario Alberto Leon at Leon’s Kelvin Park home last year, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Taylor Railsback.

At the time he was charged, Florian-Olivares already was being held at Cook County Jail; he’s charged with robbing and trying to kill a witness he allegedly discussed the murder with, according to court records.

Leon’s sister found him lying in a pool of blood on May 14 at his home in the 4700 block of West Deming after concerned employees of the downtown hotel restaurant Leon worked at reached out to his family, Railsback said.

Leon was stabbed 11 times and pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said. His wallet, phone, car keys and Honda Civic were reported missing.

Prosecutors offered no motive for Leon’s stabbing and declined to provide additional information after the hearing.

The night before Leon was found dead, his Honda Civic was burned in a grass lot behind Johnny’s Ice House West, 2550 W. Madison St., Railsback said. A blue Jeep Liberty was recorded by surveillance cameras following the Honda into the lot before it was burned and then driving to a nearby McDonald’s restaurant. Florian-Olivares was seen on video surveillance leaving the lot and then getting into the Jeep at the McDonald’s.

By tracking Leon’s debit card activity, investigators learned someone driving a blue Jeep Liberty had used the card to make multiple purchases at fast food restaurants. The Jeep was registered to 24-year-old Betty Bernal-Alava, who was recorded on video surveillance making additional purchases with Leon’s credit card.

Betty Bernal-Alava | Cook County sheriff’s office
Betty Bernal-Alava | Cook County sheriff’s office

At one point during the investigation, Florian-Olivares was stopped for a traffic violation while driving Bernal-Alava’s Jeep; a search of her Facebook account turned up pictures of Florian-Olivares on her account and several conversations between the two, Railsback said.

Prosecutors said Florian-Olivares admitted stabbing Leon to a witness in the case; he’s accused of trying to kill that person by stabbing them 15 times. He was ordered held at the Cook County Jail without bail on charges of attempted murder and robbery in September and has pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to court records.

A swab of Florian-Olivares’ DNA taken after his arrest in September later matched to DNA found in a sink at Leon’s home, prosecutors said.

Bernal-Alava was taken into custody March 25 and charged with concealment of a homicidal death, unlawful possession of a credit card, criminal damage to property and obstruction of justice, prosecutors said.

At her initial hearing on the charges Wednesday, an assistant public defender for Bernal-Alava said she worked for Allstate Insurance, lives with her parents and has two children.

Judge John F. Lyke Jr. set her bail at $50,000 and ordered her onto electronic monitoring if she posts bond.

An assistant public defender for Florian-Olivares said he has lived in Chicago eight years and resides with his parents. He had worked in construction.

Judge Lyke said that, if true, “the state’s proffer is an outline of evil,” when he denied Florian-Olivares bail.

Both defendants are scheduled back in court April on Wednesday.