An Illinois appeals court ordered a new hearing for a Beach Park man sentenced to life in prison for the baseball bat murders of his wife and stepson in 2015.
Armando Trejo, Jr., 53, formerly of Beach Park, is currently serving life in prison in the Menard Correctional Center in downstate Illinois.
Trejo was convicted in March 2019 by a Lake County jury on two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Lailani Uy Trejo, 43, and Patrick K. Cruz Uy, 14, both of Beach Park.
Police were called around 2:45 a.m. on November 29, 2015, to the 10200 block of West Bairstow Avenue in Beach Park where the three of them lived.
The sheriff’s office said that Trejo initially tried telling arriving deputies that a child playing with the phone had placed the 911 call.
Deputies ended up finding Lailani and Cruz with “obvious signs of significant trauma” and both appeared to have been murdered, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said at the time.
Deputies arrested Trejo at the scene and he admitted to detectives that he struck his wife and stepson numerous times on the head and body with a baseball bat.
At trial, Trejo testified that he saw his wife molest her son, Cruz, on two occasions in their apartment.
Trejo said that he struck Lailani several times with a baseball bat after supposedly catching her sexually abusing her son for the second time.
Cruz woke up and tried to intervene but Trejo struck the boy with the baseball.
Assistant State’s Attorney Jason Humke said at trial that Trejo’s motive for the murders was that he discovered his wife was leaving him and he became angry about it.
Trejo’s attorney, Michael Ettinger, said at trial that there is no dispute Trejo killed the two but that he should have been convicted of second-degree murder, not first-degree.
After Trejo was convicted, his defense counsel filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the court failed to conduct a proper Batson hearing after prosecutors challenged three Hispanic prospective jurors.
The trial court denied the motion, observing that three Hispanic individuals were seated on the jury.
On Monday, the Illinois Appellate Court Second District handed down a judgement ordering a new Batson hearing in the case.
The appeals judges said in their issued opinion that the defendant was not offered the opportunity to rebut prosecutors’ race-neutral showing.
They ordered the new Batson hearing to be conducted within 30 days.