2 teen girls charged in brutal assault

Bond set in video recorded attack
June 8, 2009 8:53:11 AM PDT
A brutal attack on a girl in a south suburb has been caught on a cell phone camera. Two teenage girls have been charged and appeared in court Saturday.The victim talked about the ordeal with ABC7 Chicago Saturday.

The video from a cell phone could be disturbing to some. It documents the attack, which took place in Sauk Village. Seventeen-year-old girls can be seen beating and torturing Mercedes Michaels, burning her in several places with a car cigarette lighter. The attackers can be seen taking scissors to Michaels' long hair, leaving long clumps of it on the sand in a park.

"This isn't just an everyday thing, an everyday fight you see all the time. They burned my face, stabbed me with scissors," Michaels told ABC7 Chicago.

"It's heartbreaking. This is senseless. I don't understand this at all," said the victim's mother, Cathy Mendez.

The scars are still visible several days later, and the choppy haircut was a mess, which was why Michaels was at a salon Saturday, hoping stylists could help her.

Two of the girls allegedly seen attacking Michaels were in court Saturday. The state's attorney has charged each of the 17-year-old girls, Sarah Kraft of Park Forest and Marcelena Castillo of Steger, with felony aggravated battery.

Police are reportedly considering filing additional charges against two other juveniles who were also involved in the attack. Several others, including the cell phone photographer, can be seen watching the attack without trying to help.

An attorney for one of the suspects says the video tells far less than the whole story.

"There's certainly more to cases than a 30-minute video that is aired on the news," said Carl Evans, the attorney for Marcelena Castillo.

Michaels says she will have to live with the scars on her face for the rest of her life, but at least, she said, she felt better Saturday about her hair, thanks to extensions.

"To have something like that happen to her is just degrading and humiliating. So, we're really fortunate with all the technology we have now that we can make it better," said salon owner Tania Cioffi.

The suspects were each being held on $25,000 bond Saturday evening.

Michaels says she and the two girls used to be close friends. The attack was prompted, she says, because one of the girls believed Michaels was seeing her ex-boyfriend. That is something Michaels says is untrue.


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