Year 7: Joliet Murder Defendant Still In Jail Awaiting Trial

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JOLIET, IL— Back when Barack Obama was in his second term as U.S. President and a year before the Chicago Cubs captured the 2016 World Series, Joliet police detectives arrested Rodolfo Trujillo on charges of first-degree murder.

The 19-year-old Trujillo was booked into the Will County Jail on the morning of Nov. 9, 2015. A day earlier, 25-year-old Rudy Valdez died from a fatal stabbing in Trujillo’s yard in the far west side of Joliet, in the 2900 block of Reflection Drive, near County Line Road.

Trujillo has remained in the Will County Jail ever since. His murder case didn’t go to trial in 2016, or 2017, 0r 2018, or 2019, or 2020, or 2021.

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As of Feb. 7, Trujillo’s first-degree murder charges still do not have a trial date scheduled on the Will County Circuit Court calendar.

Now 25 years old, Trujillo’s case is assigned to Will County Circuit Judge Vincent Cornelius. He was elected judge in November 2018, which would have been Trujillo’s third anniversary of incarceration. Trujillo faces two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery from the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office of Jim Glasgow.

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The Joliet Police Department’s criminal complaint states that Trujillo, on Nov. 8, 2015, “with the intent to kill or do great bodily harm to Rudy Valdez, cut Rudy Valdez with a knife, thereby causing the death of Rudy Valdez.”

While criminal defendants are afforded the right to a speedy trial under the U.S. Constitution, Trujillo has not been in a hurry to have his case heard by a Will County jury, Joliet Patch’s extensive review of his court records showed.

Three different private law firms have represented him during the past seven years.

This is Rodolfo Trujillo’s Jan. 10, 2019 mugshot at the Will County Jail.

Back in 2015, Trujillo was represented by downtown Joliet criminal defense attorney Marzell Richardson of the Mitchell Law Group. Since then, there have been a flurry of pre-trial motions filed by Trujillo’s different private lawyers asking that the first-degree murder defendant’s bail get reduced from $1.5 million.

“Defendant’s bond is currently set in the amount of $1.5 million with 10 percent to apply,” Richardson stated in his motion filed Jan. 26, 2016. Richardson argued the bail was not commensurate with the financial ability of Trujillo who “has no prior felony or misdemeanor convictions.”

Richardson asked that his client’s bail be reduced to $750,000 with 10 percent to apply. The judge denied the bond reduction.

In July 2016, Richardson re-filed his bond reduction motion. This time he asked that the bail be reduced to $1 million with 10 percent to apply. The judge rejected the request.

The 2015 homicide happened on Reflection Drive, which is near County Line Road. Image via Google Maps

Marzell Richardson Leaves The Case

On Aug. 9, 2017, Trujillo’s murder case still had not gone to trial, and Richardson filed a motion with the court seeking a substitution of attorneys.

“I, Marzell Richardson, hereby withdraw my appearance … as attorney for Rodolfo Trujillo. Law offices of Raymond G. Wigell … enter our appearance as attorney for Rodolfo Trujillo,” court documents show.

In January 2019, the Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell in Olympia Fields filed a motion on Trujillo’s behalf to exclude mention of Trujillo’s family home being known for dealing drugs.

A Nov. 10, 2015, Joliet Patch reported that “a Joliet teen jailed for allegedly stabbing a man during a dispute over $40 of bad marijuana was charged with murder Tuesday afternoon.”

“While investigating the incident, police interviewed a neighbor of Trujillo … (she) indicated to police that she called police due to several people fighting in the street. She further indicated that Trujillo’s home was known for dealing drugs,” Trujillo’s lawyer Raymond Wigell wrote in his January 2019 motion. “During the course of the investigation, there are suggestions from other witnesses that Trujillo sells drugs with his mother’s permission.

“Trujillo is not charged with any drug offenses in this matter,” the Olympia Fields lawyer argued. “The jury would see Trujillo as a bad person who has the propensity to commit crimes. The jury would find Trujillo guilty based upon this unsubstantiated conduct and innuendo.”

According to Trujillo’s second lawyer, “referencing Trujillo’s family home as a house for selling drugs and Trujillo selling drugs with his mother’s permission is more prejudicial than probative,” Wigell argued. “There is no evidence that Trujillo actually sold drugs prior to this case and that the Trujillo family home is known for dealing drugs.”

Trujillo Retains Motta & Motta In 2020

During the past two years, Aurora private practice criminal defense attorney Alison Motta, of Motta & Motta, has been the primary lawyer for Trujillo, according to Will County Courthouse records.

This is Rodolfo Trujillo’s May 8, 2020 mugshot at the Will County Jail.

In April 2020, Alison Motta came on board for Trujillo’s defense as additional private counsel, court records reflect. This past December, Patch published an article about Motta headlined,“Lawyer Suspended For Unprofessionalism Could Face More Discipline.”

In any event, on Aug. 20, 2020, as Trujillo approached his five-year anniversary of incarceration in the Will County Jail awaiting trial, Motta & Motta filed a motion to reduce his bail.

“Defendant’s medical conditions and physical conditions (include) a history of bronchial asthma and chronic bronchitis which place him at a high risk of serious illness and death if he were to contract COVID-19,” argued Motta & Motta defense lawyer Jason Polcyn. “Alarmingly, the defendant contracted scabies while incarcerated and after five months of treatment, within the facility, the infection still has not subsided. The … motion is being brought considering his pre-existing conditions, his scabies, and lack of treatment put him in a greater risk of contracting COVID-19, as his immune system is deficient.”

The motion seeking lower bail for Trujillo was rejected by a Will County judge.

On July 23, 2021, Alison Motta filed an affidavit for funds to retain an expert in crime scene reconstruction and blood spatter analysis. By that point, Trujillo had been incarcerated awaiting trial in Will County for five years and eight-and-a-half months.

“Trujillo is … charged with the murder of Rudy Valdez and the attempted murder of Andres Ochoa. The events leading up to the offense occurred at the residence of Trujillo after the victims and two of their friends drove to Trujillo’s home and started a fight with Trujillo and four of Trujillo’s friends,” Alison Motta argued.

“It is undisputed that there were two separate altercations, less than 13 minutes apart, at Trujillo’s involving Valdez, Ochoa and their friends and Trujillo and his four friends, both of which started with the victims and their friends arriving at Trujillo’s home,” Motta contended.

In her July 23, 2021, filing, Motta stated, “Initially, there were at least four suspects. There were six (or) seven knives recovered at the scene … The witness statements and evidence lead undersigned counsel to believe that the same person could not have stabbed both Valdez and Ochoa based on the victims’ respective locations at the time of stabbings and or the order and timing of the stabbings and of Valdez and Ochoa exiting the vehicle.”

Motta also informed the judge and prosecutors that “as to the stabbing of Ochoa, the defendant intends to rely on the affirmative defense of self-defense and or defense of others. As to Valdez, the defendant believes, through the assistance of the requested expert, the forensic evidence will support his actual innocence in which case he will not assert an affirmative defense but instead challenge the state’s witnesses and evidence with expert testimony … which establishes that Trujillo did not inflict Valdez’s fatal wounds, or alternatively, that suggests that any wounds that could have been inflicted by Defendant were consistent with self-defense.”

Expert Fees For Trujillo’s Defense Approved

On Aug. 10, 2021, Alison Motta and two assistant Will County State’s Attorneys were in Cornelius’ courtroom for his ruling on the motion for Will County taxpayer funds for a crime scene reconstruction and blood spatter expert. The judge found in Motta’s favor, but capped the county expenses at $3,500 for the initial analysis.

The previous month, Motta stated in her motion that, “The autopsy report establishes that Valdez, deceased victim, was stabbed in multiple locations suggesting multiple assailants and or multiple victims. (Motta) believes the requested expert will conclude that Valdez’s injuries were inflicted by multiple assailants.”

Five-and-a-half months pass.

On Jan. 26, Motta appeared in Cornelius’ courtroom. On her defense motion, Trujillo’s first-degree murder case was continued for further pretrial and filing of any additional motions.

Cornelius set the next pre-trial hearing for Trujillo in Courtroom 404 for March 30.

No trial date for Trujillo’s murder case is on the judge’s calendar.

Joliet murder defendant Rodolfo Trujillo had his most recent mugshot taken April 6, 2021. Image via Will County Jail

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