2 held in photographer’s murder; widow ‘happy but so very sad’
BY MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporter August 3, 2014 9:04PM
Updated: September 5, 2014 6:29AM
To feel closer to him, every day Maria Lewis visits the bus stop where her husband, Wil, was killed by stray gang gunfire last month in Rogers Park.
She sits against a building, beneath a bullet hole in a window frame — the last remnant of the afternoon Wil died, and she tells him what’s been happening since then. He was 28.
On Thursday, she had good news: Detectives phoned to tell her that the person they think pulled the trigger, as well as an accomplice who fled on foot, had been arrested in Racine, Wis., where they were hiding out.
Maria Lewis, 30, shared the details of her life on a memorial website dedicated to raising money to cover funeral costs and a scholarship in Wil’s name.
“I’ve been very busy with all those things related to death of a spouse. For now, I’m staying in Chicago so I can feel closer to Wil,” she said in an entry posted Thursday.
Michael Phillips, 17, and Denzel Burke, 15, were in the custody of the Racine County Sheriff’s Department on Sunday night. They were arrested last week on first-degree murder warrants that had been issued in Cook County. Phillips lives in the Uptown neighborhood, in the 800 block of West Windsor, about a mile from Burke’s home in the 800 block of West Grace in Lake View.
“For me this is very bitter sweet, I am happy but so very sad. I guess it is a baby step toward closure,” Maria wrote on the website.
She also recounts the last few hours of Wil’s life, details she cobbled together through receipts. He bought nine red bins at an office supply shop “to make our ugly shelf more presentable.”
“After that at 2:12 he ate lunch at Jimmy Johns. Which I was surprised at because he does not like JJ; it must have been the best thing he walked past that had food.”
After that, he began to walk home and was passing a bus stop when gunfire rang out.
Maria wrote that she learned that nearby residents and passersby pointed out one of the suspects to police, snapped photos of people fleeing the scene, and rushed to Wil’s side in his final moments.
“I was told there were multiple civilians that rushed to help Wil, so he was not alone. I am thankful for swift justice and lots of evidence but I am most thankful that caring and kind souls didn’t let Wil perish alone on the street.
“Thank you again for your support and prayers. I am glad I don’t have to go through this alone.”
Last week’s arrests came about two weeks after Eric Vaughn, 31, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He was accused of handing the gun to one of the passengers in his car and ordering him to shoot a rival gang member. He allegedly told the gunman to “wet that T-shirt up” — meaning make the rival gang member bleed.
Two passengers got out of the car and fired about 10 shots at the rival. The 19-year-old intended target was not struck, but Wil Lewis was shot in the back.
Vaughn was arrested on foot shortly after the shooting when witnesses identified him to police as the driver of the vehicle. Vaughn, of the 4400 block of North Clarendon Avenue, was ordered held on no bail.
The warrant for Burke carried a bail of $750,000. Phillips’ warrant ordered that the teen be held without bail.
Lewis, who had just moved into a new apartment in Rogers Park with his wife, was about to start a new job as a photographer for Trunk Club, an online men’s clothing store, when he was killed. He had escaped poverty in Guatemala when he was adopted at age 7. He was raised in Wisconsin, attended art school in Milwaukee and moved to Chicago two years ago.