3 charged in murder of Highland Park man

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Murder charges were filed against two teens and a 20-year-old in the death of Colin Nutter, 20, of Highland Park, whose body was found early this week along the Edens Expressway.

Benjamin Schenk, 20, Philip Vatamaniuc, 17, and Michael Coffee, 17, all of whom are also from Highland Park, have each been charged with first-degree murder.

Police found Nutter’s body near the Edens Expressway in Wilmette the night of June 3. He had been shot in the head.

Earlier that day, police say the three suspects met with Nutter to purchase marijuana from him. Police say Nutter picked them up in his Dodge Stratus. Two of the suspects — Coffee and Vatamaniuc — gave statements saying Schenk, who was sitting behind the driver’s seat, shot Nutter in the head.

“We also have a witness who indicated the day before the murder, defendant Schenk talked about how he was going to rob and murder someone the following day,” said Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said at a news conference Friday.


From left: Benjamin Schenk, 20; Philip Vatamaniuc, 17; and Michael Coffee, 17.

Nerheim went on to say that after Nutter was shot in the head, the suspects put his body in the trunk of the Dodge, and drove to the location on the Edens in Wilmette where they dumped the body. Then, police said they drove the Dodge and another car —  a Ford Focus they had stolen from Nutter’s family — to the West Side of Chicago.

“On the Dodge that was located in Chicago, police located blood in the trunk, and blood in the seat belt area of the driver’s side of the victim’s car,” Nerheim said.

Police say the suspects then drove the Ford Focus back to a home in Highwood, which was a rental unit where they had been staying. Investigators say the murder happened in Highwood, then the suspects scrambled to try and get rid of the evidence.

“Why they drove to that specific area, why they then drove the car to another area, we don’t know. Some things are just unexplained,” said Chief George Filenko, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, at Friday’s news conference.

Also unexplained is why Nutter was murdered.

“As to motive, we still don’t have an exact theory, so I don’t want to speculate at this point,” Filenko said.

Philip Vatamaniuc’s father Daniel says that his son is a good kid who was caught up with the wrong people.

“I don’t think [he’s guilty of these charges],” said Vatamaniuc. “Wrong place and wrong time, if you’re in the car and somebody does something stupid, it’s not your fault. I don’t think he’s guilty because he was there.”

Lake County judge set bond for each suspect at $5 million Friday morning.

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