A 16-year-old boy, who was charged as an adult, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he shot and killed a young mother as she read to her baby inside her Zion home.
Zechariah C. Myles, 16, of the 2800 block of Enoch Avenue in Zion, was charged with six counts of first-degree murder.
He was arraigned Wednesday on the charges Wednesday. Myles pleaded not guilty to the charges at a virtual hearing in front of Lake County Judge George Strickland.
Strickland set a case management hearing for February 15. An initial trial date is expected to be set at that time.
Each count of first-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of 20-60 years in prison. Firearm enhancements could lengthen that term.
Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said that Melanie Yates, 23, of Zion, died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head.
Yates was found shot after the Zion Police Department responded around 9 p.m. October 17 to the 2800 block of Enoch Avenue in Zion for a call of shots fired.
Lake County Major Crime Task Force Spokesman Christopher Covelli said police officers arrived and found evidence of several shots that had been fired near the roadway.
Covelli said that Myles exited his home and “began recklessly shooting” a rifle at another person.
Yates was shot by a stray round, Covelli said. The woman was not the intended target.
She was inside of her home when she was struck by the round.
“She was with her baby reading a Bible story to her seven-month-old and praying with her,” Yates’s father Shawn Calderon said in an interview with WGN TV.
Paramedics with the Zion Fire Rescue Department transported Yates to an area hospital with extremely critical injuries, Covelli said.
The woman died around 10 a.m. October 18 at the hospital. A neighbor told WGN News he heard seven or eight gunshots during the shooting.
“We will seek justice for the Yates family in the courtroom; we will pursue a sentence that deters others from entering a life of violence; we will seek to unpack and understand the social circumstances that led to a 16-year-old having a rifle in the first place and causing so much pain,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said on Thursday.
“We must do everything in our power to support the survivors and to prevent this tragic crime from happening to others,” Rinehart said.
“The Zion Police Department and Major Crimes Task Force worked very hard on this investigation, and I look forward to collaborating with them further to prevent violence from claiming more lives,” he added.
An arrest warrant was issued on October 21 for Myles, who detectives were trying to apprehend for weeks, Covelli said, adding that Myles was actively avoiding apprehension.
Officers with the Waukegan Police Department responded to a call of shots fired near Jackson Street and Belvidere Road in Waukegan in mid-November.
Officers quickly arrested Myles and two other juveniles as they tried fleeing from the scene. Three handguns were recovered, police said.
A judge set the bond on his warrant at $3 million.
He is also facing additional charges for the incident in Waukegan. He remains held in the Depke Juvenile Justice Complex in Vernon Hills.
Yates’s brother, Stephan Calderon, said in a social media post that Yates leaves behind her husband, Daniel Yates, and their two young daughters.
“Everybody who knew Lanie knows she loved Jesus Christ with every fiber of her being. There is no doubt whatsoever that she is in heaven at this very moment. But we on earth miss her very dearly,” Calderon said.
“We miss her passionate, powerful prayers. We miss her infectious laugh. We miss her beautiful singing voice lifting songs of worship. We miss her feisty, witty humor. We miss her dedication to being an amazing, godly mom and wife. We miss her. And we wish with every fiber of our being she was here, but we know she’s in a better place,” Calderon added.
Calderon created a GoFundMe account to raise money to help the woman’s husband and the children.
The fundraiser collected over $145,000 from 1,600 donors in about a week, surpassing its initial $20,000 goal.