Highland Park, News

Alleged Highland Park shooter rejects plea deal he reportedly agreed to outside of court

The accused shooter in the 2022 Highland Park Fourth of July parade shooting backed out of a reported plea deal in court Wednesday morning.  

The office of the Lake County State’s Attorney said before the hearing that it was expecting a possible change of plea from the shooter, who initially pleaded not guilty to a total of 117 charges: 21 counts of first-degree murder, 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.

According to prosecutors, under the plea deal, the shooter would plead guilty and face reduced charges, including seven for first-degree murder and 48 for aggravated battery with a firearm. In exchange, he would be given life in prison without parole and the additional murder and attempted-murder charges would be dropped.

During the hearing Wednesday, Judge Victoria Rossetti asked the shooter — who arrived at the hearing in a wheelchair for unclear reasons — if he had reviewed the plea deal with his attorneys, to which he did not directly respond. After a brief recess, the shooter returned to the courtroom to deny the plea deal.

Rossetti set Feb. 24, 2025, as the tentative date for the trial.

The plea deal would have not only removed charges from the filing, but it also would eliminate the need for a trial and for the victims and their families to testify.

Having several victims and their families in the courtroom made the denial of the plea even more dramatic. Leah Sundheim, the daughter of Jacki Sundheim, one of the victims, spoke in a press conference after the plea was denied. 

“All I wanted was to fully grieve my mom, without a looming trial, knowing that he was going to spend the rest of his life in jail,” Sundheim said. “He is evil and manipulative and probably brought us here to court today knowing what he was going to do.”

“We knew this could happen, but we were hoping for the best,” said Karina Mendez, the daughter of Eduardo Uvaldo, one of the victims. ​​“My dad was somebody who loved his family and we’ve stuck together through all this, and we’re going to keep sticking together and being there for each other through this whole trial.”

Eric Rinehart, Lake County State’s Attorney, made a statement during a press conference following the hearing. He emphasized that limited comments can be made about the open case, but the prosecution is working with victims and survivors to help prepare.

“Our trial team and our team of victims’ support professionals met with them for as long as they needed to in the courtroom,” he said. “That was an unusual procedure but necessary in light of what happened today.”

On July 4, 2022, a gunman fired more than 80 rounds in under a minute from an assault-style weapon at paradegoers in downtown Highland Park. He shot more than 50 people, killing seven: Katherine Goldstein, 64, of Highland Park; Irina McCarthy, 35, of Highland Park; Kevin McCarthy, 37, of Highland Park; Stephen Straus, 88, of Highland Park; Jacki Sundheim, 63, of Highland Park; Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, of Morelos, Mexico; and Eduardo Uvaldo, 69, of Waukegan.

Authorities apprehended and arrested the shooter about nine hours after the shooting, eventually approving more than 100 charges, including seven counts of first-degree murder, related to the shooting.

In 2023, the City of Highland Park began a “multi-year process” to develop and install a permanent memorial in honor of those impacted by the shooting. In the immediate wake of the tragedy, impromptu memorials were erected near downtown Highland Park. The city then installed an official temporary memorial to the seven victims near the City Hall rose garden. Officials have said that memorial will remain until a permanent replacement is finished.

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