Suspect in Highland Park massacre pleads not guilty to 117 charges. Parents say they ‘deeply regret the actions’ of their son

Robert E. Crimo III is accused of opening fire from a rooftop during the Fourth of July parade, killing seven people and wounding 48 others.

SHARE Suspect in Highland Park massacre pleads not guilty to 117 charges. Parents say they ‘deeply regret the actions’ of their son
Robert E. Crimo III, walks in to the courtroom during a hearing in Lake County court Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in Waukegan, Ill. Crimo III, accused of killing seven people and wounding dozens more in a shooting at an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago pleaded not guilty on Wednesday, a week after prosecutors announced he faces 117 felony counts in the attack.

Robert E. Crimo III walks into a Lake County courtroom for a hearing Wednesday. Crimo is accused of killing seven people and wounding dozens more in a shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade. He pleaded not guilty to 117 felony counts in the attack.

AP Photo

Robert E. Crimo III pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 117 criminal charges stemming from the Highland Park massacre as his parents told reporters they “deeply regret the actions their son had taken.”

The plea was entered by Crimo’s attorney during a brief court hearing in Lake County. Crimo answered “yes” to several questions from Judge Victoria Rossetti on whether he understood the case against him.

Crimo was indicted one week ago on the charges accusing him of firing from a rooftop during a Fourth of July parade, killing seven people and wounding 48 others.

They include three counts for each person who died, and counts of attempted murder and aggravated battery for each person wounded that day. Crimo faces natural life in prison if convicted of two or more of the murder charges.

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Crimo entered the courtroom shortly before 11 a.m., his hands shackled to a belt around his waist. He was dressed in a dark blue jump suit and wore a blue surgical mask on his face as he sat next to his attorneys. Eight sheriff’s deputies stood facing Crimo.

When the hearing began, Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart called the case, and the judge asked if Crimo has seen the indictment. The judge then read each charge as Crimo sat back in his chair, looking straight ahead.

Crimo’s parents attended the hearing but declined to speak with reporters afterward. An attorney representing them, George Gomez, said the parents are “still devastated by what had occurred on July Fourth.” He added they “are in shock” at the possibility of a life sentence for their son.

Asked what the parents want to say to the community, Gomez said, “In hindsight, they deeply regret the actions their son had taken. They’re part of the Highland Park community. They’re heartbroken by all those affected by this tragic event. They’re here to express their sorrows.”

Attorney George Gomez (from left); Robert Crimo III’s father, Robert Crimo Jr.; mother Denise Pesina;  and attorney Sussethe Renteria enter the Lake County courthouse Wednesday.

Attorney George Gomez (from left); Robert Crimo III’s father, Robert Crimo Jr.; mother Denise Pesina; and attorney Sussethe Renteria enter the Lake County courthouse Wednesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Rinehart, speaking to reporters after the hearing, would not comment on whether there have been any plea negotiations. While Crimo’s attorney did not ask for a trial, the request can be made later.

“They did not request a trial, I’ll leave it to them” to answer why, Rinehart said. Crimo’s next court date was set for 11 a.m. Nov. 1.

Ashbey Beasley, who was at the parade with her young son, said she attended Wednesday’s hearing “because people from my community cannot be here. They’re not ready. They are broken, living in fear.”

She said she wanted “to be a presence for them, to be able to sit in the courtroom and know the people in my town matter, and that what happened to them matters.”

Beasley said she has faith in the Lake County state’s attorney, and “he will bring down the hammer of justice on this defendant.”

Prosecutors have given no motive for the mass shooting, but during an initial court hearing two days after the shooting, they said Crimo has confessed to firing more than 80 rounds into a crowd of spectators lining the downtown parade route.

Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart speaks Wednesday outside the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan after Robert E. Crimo III’s arraignment.

Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart speaks Wednesday outside the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan after Robert E. Crimo III’s arraignment.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

On the day of the attack, Crimo dressed in women’s clothing and wore makeup to cover his face tattoos because he feared he would be recognized, prosecutors have said.

Surveillance video allegedly shows Crimo walking down an alley behind a building at the northwest corner of Central Avenue and Second Street and climbing stairs to reach the roof.

Police found 83 shell casings. Paramedics took 52 people to hospitals and five people died at the parade, according to an ambulance report. Two people died later at hospitals.

Despite his disguise, police officers familiar with Crimo identified him in still images taken from surveillance cameras after the shooting, prosecutors said.

Video shows Crimo running down the alley with a bag over his shoulder and dropping a rifle wrapped in a cloth, prosecutors said. Police recovered the weapon within minutes and traced it to Crimo, who had purchased it in 2020 when he was 19.

Crimo went to his mother’s nearby home and took off in her car as police launched a manhunt. He drove to Madison, Wisconsin, where he spotted a group of people and thought about shooting them with a second rifle in the car, authorities have said.

Crimo had about 60 rounds in the car with him, but he apparently felt he hadn’t put enough “thought and research” into opening fire, authorities said.

He turned back, dumped his cellphone in nearby Middleton and was finally spotted that evening in North Chicago, about eight hours after the shooting. He was arrested around 5:30 p.m. after a brief car chase.

The victims who died are: Katherine Goldstein, 64; Irina McCarthy, 35; Kevin McCarthy, 37; Jacki Sundheim, 63; Stephen Straus, 88, all of Highland Park; Nicolas Toledo, 78, of Morelos, Mexico; and Eduardo Uvaldo, 69, of Waukegan.

Dozens of mourners gather for a vigil in downtown Highland Park, one day after a gunman killed seven people and wounded dozens more at a Fourth of July parade.

Dozens of mourners gather for a vigil near Central Avenue and St. Johns Avenue in downtown Highland Park, one day after a gunman killed seven people and wounded dozens more by firing a semiautomatic rifle from a rooftop into a crowd attending Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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