Prosecutors detailed allegations against two men who are being held on a $2 million bond each after being charged in the murder of a Highland Park father and business owner at Fort Sheridan Beach.
Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Ben Dillon said Matthew Ascaridis, 45, called 911 around 12:54 a.m. on September 17 to report people being loud on the beach.
Ascaridis left his residence with a flashlight and walked down to the beach.
A witness told investigators he was with Jacob Firestone, 19, of Highland Park, and Nicholas M. Caban, 20, on the beach.
They were listening to music and riding on a motorized surfboard in the water, Dillon said.
The witness saw a man with a flashlight walking toward them.
The witness left the beach and Firestone and Caban remained there with Ascaridis.
Dillon said a person walking on Fort Sheridan Beach hours later around 5:12 a.m. reported finding a deceased man lying in the water feet away from shore.
Officers responded to the 0-100 block of Cliff Road in Highland Park and found Ascaridis deceased on the beachfront with signs of trauma.
Caban called 911 around 5:23 a.m. to report he and Firestone had been involved in a physical altercation with a man on the beach.
Caban said a man came at him with a flashlight and hit him, along with Firestone, in the head with the flashlight, Dillon said.
Officers responded to the 3400 block of Dato Avenue in Highland Park and found Caban and Firestone there.
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.
Caban, who suffered a laceration to his face and the back of his head, was also transported to a local hospital.
Both Caban and Firestone admitted to being at the beach and getting into a fight with Ascaridis, Dillon said.
Firestone said he kicked Ascaridis a few times, punched him and threw rocks at him.
Firestone said they stopped hitting Ascaridis when he was knocked out, Dillon said.
The Lake County Coroner’s Office ruled Ascaridis’ death a homicide from a physical fight.
Dillon said an autopsy showed Ascaridis was repeatedly struck with significant force, causing his head to snap side to side and resulting in a lacerated spinal cord.
Ascaridis also suffered a broken neck and the autopsy showed Ascaridis was hit by at least two subjects while not moving, Dillon said.
Ascaridis suffered additional serious physical injuries, including a dozen lacerations to his back head. He also had signs of drowning.
Ascaridis was a father of two and the owner of a financial services company based in Glenview.
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.
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.
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 on March 16 for Caban and Firestone charging them with second-degree murder in Ascaridis’s death.
Firestone and Caban were taken into custody the same day 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.
Lake County Judge Theodore Potkonjak ordered both men held on a $2 million bond each.