Dora Betancourt

Police say sibling dispute turned deadly: ‘She kept stabbing.”

14-year-old stabbed 11-year-old for being ungrateful, officials say

Police: Girl, 14, stabs sister to death over not feeling appreciated

Police: Girl, 14, stabs sister to death over not feeling appreciated

January 22, 2014 5:25 PM CST
A 14-year-old suburban girl apparently confesses to stabbing and killing her 11-year-old sister all because she didn’t feel appreciated.
Police: Girl, 14, stabs sister to death over not feeling appreciated

Police: Girl, 14, stabs sister to death over not feeling appreciated

  • Neighbor of murdered girl: "They looked to be a happy family ..."

    Neighbor of murdered girl: “They looked to be a happy family …”

  • Mundelein, Ill., mayor: 'Please pray for us'

    Mundelein, Ill., mayor: ‘Please pray for us’

By Lisa Black, Dan Waters and John Keilman, Tribune reporters7:08 a.m. CST, January 23, 2014

The 14-year-old girl from Mundelein sat without expression in a juvenile court hearing room Wednesday as Lake County prosecutors laid out the events they said had led to the teen murdering her little sister.

Dressed in gray detention center scrubs, her brown hair pulled into a ponytail, the girl remained passive until Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Claudia Kasten recounted how the teen allegedly fetched a kitchen knife, the weapon used to stab her 11-year-old sister to death.

The teen’s face flushed and her eyes brimmed. The woman sitting beside her, mother to victim and the accused, blinked slowly and began to cry. But never did mother and daughter break their gaze from the judge sitting across the table. Never did they share so much as a glance.

The bleak scene came as prosecutors tried to explain how a sibling argument exploded into lethal violence Tuesday morning, when the 14-year-old allegedly stabbed her sister dozens of times in a fury over the child’s supposed ingratitude.

Multiple sources and public records, including her parents’ divorce file, identify the victim as Dora Betancourt.

“This is quite a tragedy. … There’s a lot of grief going on right now,” Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz said at a news conference. “Please pray for us.”

Authorities did not offer much information on the sisters’ relationship, but the Facebook page belonging to the 14-year-old — whom the Tribune is not naming because she has been charged as a juvenile — shows the two smiling together in several photographs.

“They would play in the front yard often,” said neighbor Matthew McCoy, who lives a few doors down on Woodhaven Court.

“The oldest girl would help the young girl do cartwheels.”

Dora attended St. John Lutheran School in Libertyville. Her family has been a member of St. John Lutheran Church for years, said Steven Fuoco, an attorney for the school and church.

Liam Welch, 14, went to elementary school with the 14-year-old girl and got back in touch in recent months. He said the alleged attack was utterly out of character for his friend, whom he described as funny and caring.

“If somebody at our school was having a really hard time, she was always there for them to make them feel better,” he said.

While many questions remain about the attack, Lake County prosecutors offered an unsettling account of its origin and aftermath.

During police questioning, the 14-year-old allegedly said that Dora had been hitting her and was not appreciative of her efforts to keep the household running.

The girl said she had cooked dinner at least six times the previous week along with doing other chores, the prosecutor said during the court hearing.

Officials said the girls’ mother was the only adult living in the home. She was at work Tuesday morning, they said, when her daughters’ quarrel took a horrifying turn.

Kasten said the 14-year-old, still angry over the previous night’s argument, allegedly got a knife from the kitchen and went to Dora’s bedroom. She began to stab her sister, saying with each wound inflicted that the younger girl was not thankful for what she had done, Kasten said.

“A struggle ensued,” Kasten said. “She kept stabbing.”

When the attack was over, Kasten said, the 14-year-old tried to wash the blood off herself and phoned her mother with a lie: She claimed she had awoken to screams and found an intruder in the house stabbing her sister.

Her mother told her to call police and she did, meeting officers in tears when they arrived minutes later. The teen’s hair was wet and she had some blood on her arms, Kasten said.

Dora suffered about 40 knife wounds, mostly around her neck, chest and arms, authorities said. A knife and a green shirt lay on the bed.

The officers did not find an intruder. They took the 14-year-old to the Mundelein police station, where she repeated her account, but when investigators told her they had found strands of hair in Dora’s hand, she changed her story, Kasten said.

The 14-year-old faces juvenile charges of first-degree murder. Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim said he will consider in the weeks ahead whether to prosecute her as an adult.

Mundelein police Chief Eric Guenther said officers had been called to the family’s house before, “but nothing that pertains to an incident like this.”

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had not had prior contact with the family, but spokeswoman Karen Hawkins said the agency is now investigating the girls’ mother for allegations of neglect.

The attack as alleged was as unusual as it was shocking. FBI data indicate that among adolescents who kill, boys outnumber girls roughly 10 to 1. In 2012, only 55 girls nationwide committed the crime.

But researchers say that when girls do kill, they are more likely than boys to murder younger victims, frequently family members. They’re also more likely to use a knife and to act in the grip of ungovernable anger.

“Multiple stab wounds can indicate rage as well as dissociation,” said Kathleen Heide, a criminology professor at the University of South Florida who has researched girls who kill. “That’s why a (risk evaluation) is critical. Is this person aware of what she’s doing?”

Michael Conway, the lawyer appointed to represent the girl at Wednesday’s hearing, told Judge Valerie Boettle Ceckowski he had 29 pages of discovery he hadn’t had time to review with his client.

At the end of the hearing, Ceckowski said she decided to keep the girl in custody “based on probable cause and what I’ve heard.”

The girl, impassive again, stood as reporters were ushered from the room. She is due back in juvenile court Jan. 31.

Tribune reporters Duaa EldeibDan Hinkel, Greg Trotter, Robert McCoppin and Christy Gutowski and photographer Stacey Wescott contributed.

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC