Man charged in brutal sex assault of teen en route to school: authorities
BY JON SEIDEL, MATT MCKINNEY AND MITCH ARMENTROUT Staff Reporters January 5, 2014 10:11AM
Luis Alberto Pantoja, 25, of the 5500 block of West Wrightwood Ave., was arrested and charged in the brutal sexual assault last month of a 15-year-old girl on Chicago's Northwest Side. | Chicago Police photo
Updated: February 7, 2014 6:22AM
The man charged this weekend in last month’s brutal sexual assault of a Belmont-Cragin teen faced similar charges in a separate case last summer, but the judge dismissed the earlier case.
Chicago Police say Luis Pantoja, 25, who is hearing-impaired and goes by the nickname “Silent,” is responsible for the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl who was on her way to school when she was attacked Dec. 17 — three months to the day after authorities said he left the Cook County jail.
The girl was assaulted about 5:25 a.m., not 6 a.m. as investigators first thought, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said at a Sunday afternoon news conference where he discussed the arrest and charges against Pantoja. That also means the girl was bleeding in the snow 35 minutes longer than originally suspected. A resident found the girl in his backyard about 8 a.m. in a backyard in the 2400 block of North Long Avenue.
She was shoeless, all but unconscious, and her pants had been yanked off.
But McCarthy said it was the realization the attack occurred earlier that helped investigators crack the case. He also said they used DNA evidence to connect Pantoja to the crime.
“Getting a conviction is the next step,” McCarthy said. “And we’ve got to make sure that happens.”
Pantoja, of the 5500 block of West Wrightwood, is charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery, aggravated criminal sexual assault and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon.
He appeared briefly Sunday before Cook County Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil. The judge said Pantoja needed a sign-language interpreter, though, and none was present. She ordered him held without bail until Tuesday, when one should be available.
Pantoja’s criminal record goes back to 2005 and includes charges for drugs, theft and disorderly conduct. He was charged in August with criminal sexual assault and was held in lieu of $200,000 bail. Records show Judge Laura Marie Sullivan dismissed that case in September for lack of probable cause.
Details were not immediately available.
But it’s Pantoja’s 2008 conviction for failure to report an accident and possessing a stolen vehicle that might have been key to his latest arrest.
A Cook County judge gave Pantoja six years in prison then after Pantoja pleaded guilty to those crimes. McCarthy said that stint behind bars led to Pantoja’s addition to the federal DNA database used to connect him to the scene of the December attack.
Pantoja’s latest alleged victim was found near a CPS Safe Passage route. A resident there told the Chicago Sun-Times he was going to sweep the snow from his rear walkway hours after the attack and found the girl outside his back door.
She was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition. She had improved enough last week to be able to communicate with investigators. Police said Sunday she was still in the hospital and was taking her recovery day-by-day.
“Everybody knows she was in really bad shape. She’s doing better. Her and her family are taking it day-by-day, but we can only keep her in our thoughts and hope she improves,” Area North Cmdr. Gary Yamashiroya told reporters Sunday afternoon, adding: “But she is doing better.”
Records show Pantoja lives just blocks from the scene of the attack and was arrested Friday afternoon not far from home. When police searched his house, records show, they discovered an Arminius blue-steel, seven-shot handgun with a two-inch barrel loaded with one live round.