Prosecutors have filed murder charges against two men who got into a “violent confrontation” and allegedly killed a Highland Park father and business owner at Fort Sheridan Beach in September.
Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Lillian Lewis said that a man, who lives in Highland Park near the Fort Sheridan Beach, called 911 just before 1 a.m. on September 17.
The caller, identified as Matthew Ascaridis, 45, reported people were on the beach making a lot of noise.
Shortly after the call, a Lake County Forest Preserve police officer responded to the beach but did not find anyone, Lewis said during a bond hearing.
The officer observed a wheelbarrow on the beach. Lewis said the wheelbarrow was left there to be collected at a later time as officers continued to investigate.
A person walking on Fort Sheridan Beach hours later around 5:12 a.m. reported finding a deceased man.
The Highland Park Police Department responded to the call in the 0-100 block of Cliff Road in Highland Park.
Officers arrived and confirmed the man, identified as Ascaridis, was deceased near the shoreline of Lake Michigan.
Lake County Major Crime Task Force Spokesman Christopher Covelli said that Ascaridis, who lived in the area, had gone outside to speak with the loud group on the beach earlier that morning around 1 a.m.
Covelli said Ascaridis made contact with Jacob Firestone, 19, of Highland Park, and Nicholas M. Caban, 20, when a “violent confrontation” ensued, leading to Ascaridis’ death.
Ascaridis was a father of two and the owner of a financial services company based in Glenview.
Lewis said Caban called 911 hours later around 5:23 a.m. to report he and Firestone had been involved in a physical altercation with a man on the beach.
Caban told dispatchers that he was at his home in the 3400 block of Dato Avenue in Highland Park with Firestone, prompting Highland Park officers to respond.
Firestone was outside of Caban’s home on the front lawn when officers arrived, Lewis said.
A search warrant was conducted at Caban’s residence and officers located the same wheelbarrow, which had been on the beach, outside of the garage behind a fence, Lewis said.
The wheelbarrow had been removed from the beach during the course of the investigation, Lewis said.
Officers observed a red substance, believed to be blood, on the wheelbarrow.
Lewis said officers located a backpack with Firestone’s identification card and cell phone inside a closed garbage bin next to the wheelbarrow.
Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Caitlin Valiulis said during a separate court hearing that officers also found a loaded Glock 9mm handgun in a North Face backpack inside the residence on Caban’s bed during the warrant.
The serial number on the gun was not visible and had been “clearly” scratched off, Valiulis said, noting that sand was found in the backpack.
A garbage bag with several boxes of ammunition was found in Caban’s bedroom as well.
Covelli said that the gun recovered was not used in the beach confrontation.
Adam Sheppard, Caban’s attorney, said Caban and Firestone were “pummeled” during the fight on the beach.
Sheppard said Caban had to get staples in his head and he suffered a black eye.
Attorney Jed Stone said that Firestone was beaten in the head with a flashlight by Ascaridis.
Firestone was transported by ambulance to Highland Park Hospital and then later transferred to Evanston Hospital where he underwent brain surgery due to a brain bleed, Stone said.
Caban was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of a firearm without a serial number, a Class 3 felony, and released from the Lake County Jail after posting 10% of his $100,000 bond.
Firestone was initially charged with two counts of felony obstructing justice and was arrested after he was released from the hospital. He was also released after posting 10% of his $75,000 bond.
An autopsy performed on Ascaridis showed he died from “multiple injuries,” according to the Lake County Coroner’s Office.
Highland Park resident Jamie Stronberg said in a GoFundMe created for the Ascaridis family that the unexpected passing of Ascaridis to a “senseless act of violence” has been “devasting to those who knew and loved him.”
“Matt was an incredible husband to the love of his life, Darci and a loving and devoted father to Alex & Ivy. He was a kind, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth guy who always greeted friends and family with his warmth and a smile,” Stronberg said.
Stronberg said that the GoFundMe account, which raised almost $85,000, aimed to take the financial burden off Darci Ascaridis “as she learns to navigate life without her Matt.”
“Darci, Alex & Ivy are all so grateful for the outpouring of love and support they have received. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts on behalf of the Ascaridis family,” Strongberg said.
Caban, while out on bond, was charged in an arson fire that occurred in Lake Forest. He was ordered held on a $1.2 million bond, which was later reduced and he was released last month.
Court records show arrest warrants were issued Thursday for Caban and Firestone charging them with second-degree murder in Ascaridis’s death.
Firestone and Caban have both been taken into custody Thursday by the Deerfield Police Department and Kane County Sheriff’s Office.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said the Lake County Major Crime Task Force and Lake County Forest Preserve Police Department conducted an “excellent investigation” into the case.
Rinehart said Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek’s office played a critical role in analyzing the crime scene.
“We have kept the family apprised at all times regarding the course of the investigation, and we will continue to support them after this brutal attack took their husband, brother, father, son, and friend,” Rinehart said.