3 charged in Colin Nutter murder

June 7, 2013 (HIGHLAND PARK, Ill.)

His body was found just off the Edens Expressway Monday night. An autopsy determined he was killed by a gunshot wound to the back of the head. The three suspects, Benjamin Schenk, 20, of Highwood, and Philip Vatamaniuc and Michael Coffee, both 17 of Highland Park, have been charged with first-degree murder. Schenk has a previous arrest record. Each had bond set at $5 million.

Police released few details on the crime saying their investigation continues and that there are other possible suspects.

"As to motive, we don't want to speculate," said George Filenko, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force.

Police say on Monday, the 17-year-olds arranged to buy pot from Nutter, and the three suspects got into Nutter's navy blue 2002 Dodge Stratus with Nutter driving. Schenk sat behind Nutter, police say, and shot him in the back of the head in the 200-block of Michigan in Highwood.

Vatamaniuc was sitting behind the front passenger seat, and Coffee was sitting in the front seat passenger seat, police said. Both told police they saw Schenk shoot the victim in the head.

Police say Vatamaniuc and Schenk moved Nutter's body to the trunk then all three took his body to Wilmette and left it there.

Police say the three suspects took the car back to Highwood, and the next day drove it to Chicago's West Side and left it on Madison east of Pulaski. A Chicago police pole camera captured the drop off, investigators say.

The three went to a home at 240 Oakridge Ave., and Schenk was seen standing outside the Nutters' silver Ford Focus, striking the vehicle with a baseball bat. It's unclear how the Focus got to the Highwood home. He was then taken into custody for questioning.

Police say they also found a bloody trunk liner at that home in Highwood along with cleaning supplies and other items taken from the Nutter home, including the Ford. Police say blood was found in the Dodge Stratus.

A witness told police the day before the murder that Schenk said he was going to rob and murder someone, and sought help finding gloves, a ski mask and duct tape.

Danny Vatamaniuc, the father of one of the suspects, says his son might have used marijuana, but never would have knowingly involved himself in a violent crime.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering issued a statement Friday, saying, "I extend my sincerest condolences to the family of Colin Nutter in the wake of this tragic loss of their son. Like many others, I experience this news first as a parent and am extraordinarily saddened by this young life lost too soon."

She thanked the police who worked on the case, and said, "I have full confidence that this investigation will be completed in a thorough, professional and expeditious manner."

The discovery of the body shocked North Shore residents Tuesday.

"It's out of the blue. He's the last person I would think this would happen to, definitely," said Liz Weissman, who grew up with Nutter.

She said she recently bumped into his mom outside the family's Highland Park home.

"She told us that he had a job for the summer here, and so, I'm guessing he was staying home," Weissman said. "She seemed very normal."

Nutter's body was found nine miles away from his home by a teenager who was walking her dog along an expressway frontage road.

Last month, Nutter's home was burglarized, and an iPad was taken. Police arrested three teens. Investigators did not say if they thought the burglary was connected to Nutter's death.

Tami Gilbert is Nutter's next door neighbor.

"I know lately there's been a lot of activity. They've been coming in and out, late at night, after midnight," said Gilbert.

Investigators spent several hours at Nutter's home Tuesday, talking to his family and looking for possible clues. After police left, the family posted a sign asking for privacy.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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