A judge has denied pre-trial release for a man who allegedly murdered a pregnant woman, kept her body in his car for days and then dumped the body along a roadway near Wadsworth.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office responded around 7 a.m. on November 29 to Hunt Club Road south of Route 173 in Old Mill Creek.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said at the time that a 911 caller reported a possible body on the side of the road.
Sheriff’s deputies arrived and located the body of a deceased woman on the east shoulder of Hunt Club Road.
Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek identified the woman as Megan Lewis, 39, of Chicago, and said she died as a result of strangulation.
A bystander told Lake and McHenry County Scanner she was driving southbound on Hunt Club Road heading toward Wadsworth Road when she passed by the scene.
The woman said she saw the body in a black bag on the side of the road.
Covelli said in an update Wednesday that sheriff’s detectives worked “tirelessly” to identify and arrest the suspect who murdered Lewis, who was 16 weeks pregnant when she was killed.
Detectives processed the crime scene and located physical evidence identifying Juan A. Vega-Montoya, 37, of Chicago, as a potential suspect.
Sheriff’s detectives reviewed video surveillance and determined Lewis was picked up by Vega-Montoya on November 26 in the area of Cicero Avenue and West Belden Avenue in Chicago.
Detectives believe Vega-Montoya began arguing with Lewis in the vehicle. During the argument, Vega-Montoya strangled Lewis to death, Covelli said.
Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Jeffrey Facklam said Vega-Montoya admitted to strangling Lewis and dumping her body.
Facklam said the argument was over a “small amount of money.”
Vega-Montoya then drove home and left Lewis’ body in his vehicle for two days before dumping her on the side of Hunt Club Road during the overnight hours between November 28 and November 29, Covelli said.
Detectives conducted surveillance last week in the area of Vega-Montoya’s home.
Vega-Montoya was spotted driving and detectives conducted a traffic stop where they took him into custody.
Additional physical evidence of the homicide was located inside Vega-Montoya’s vehicle, Covelli said.
The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office reviewed the case and approved the charge of concealing a homicidal death, a Class 3 felony.
Because the murder occurred in Chicago, sheriff’s detectives turned over all investigative information to the Chicago Police Department.
It is anticipated that the Chicago Police Department will seek murder charges for Vega-Montoya.
“It is simply unconscionable to kill someone then dump their body on the side of a roadway, in a humiliating fashion. I am very proud of the members of our Office who spent countless hours seeking evidence and searching for Megan’s killer. I am grateful for all of the agencies who assisted and worked to hold Megan’s killer accountable,” Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg said.
Vega-Montoya is being held in the Lake County Jail and appeared for a detention hearing late last week after the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office filed a petition to detain him pending trial.
Facklam said Vega-Montoya is a real and present danger to the community and is also a willful flight risk.
The Lake County Public Defender’s Office was appointed to represent Vega-Montoya.
A public defender for Vega-Montoya argued the offense he is charged with is non-detainable under the SAFE-T Act. The attorney also said his client is not a flight risk.
Lake County Judge Ari Fisz granted the petition and ordered Vega-Montoya held in custody pending trial.
The judge said that Vega-Montoya demonstrated a “severe disregard for the sanctity of human life” by wrapping the woman’s body in garbage bags and dumping her on the road.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said the sheriff’s office did a “fantastic job investigating this case and checking every lead.”
“First Assistant Lauren Callina led our office’s efforts as everyone worked together to track down this very dangerous offender. Without their tireless pursuit – across county lines – we would not have been able to being to secure justice for Megan,” Rinehart said.
Covelli said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) played a vital role in assisting sheriff’s detectives in the investigation.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for the collaboration with HSI Chicago and Lake County Sheriff’s Office,” ERO Chicago Field Office Director LaDeon Francis said.
Francis said “outstanding teamwork” led to tracking down the “dangerous fugitive,” who is not a citizen of the United States.
“Our partnership with federal and local partners, like ERO Chicago and Lake County Sheriff’s Office, is essential to public safety,” HSI Chicago Special Agent in Charge Sean Fitzgerald said.
“Our duty to protect the community is a shared responsibility. When agencies work together, we can capture dangerous individuals, like Vega Montoya, in a safer and more controlled manner. I applaud the teamwork and effort of the agents, officers and deputies involved in arresting this individual and making our communities safer today,” Fitzgerald said.
Vega-Montoya is scheduled to appear in court again on January 11 for a preliminary hearing.