Suspects plead not guilty in murder of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org March 28, 2013 11:49AM
Michael Ward, left, and Kenneth Williams are charged in the murder of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton.
Updated: May 1, 2013 2:21PM
Hadiya Pendleton’s alleged killers pleaded not guilty to several dozen counts of murder and myriad other charges Thursday in the high-profile slaying of the 15-year-old honors student.
Nathaniel Pendleton, the girl’s father, said he felt “some bit of anger” seeing purported gang members Michael Ward and Kenneth Williams in court, but he said he wants to focus on being “peaceful” and highlighting the importance of non-violence.
“I’m trying to not think about it,” Pendleton said of losing his daughter in the Jan. 29 shooting in a South Side park.
Meanwhile, Ward’s attorney expressed dismay at the 141 first-degree murder counts revealed against his client.
Williams, the alleged getaway driver, is facing 17 first-degree murder counts.
Prosecutors often deliver several count murder indictments, which are eventually merged at trial, but Jeffrey Granich said Ward’s 100-plus counts were “absurd” and an attempt by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office to pander to the press and politicians.
“[Prosecutors] are trying to show, ‘Look how seriously we are taking the case.’ But they look stupid and foolish,” the defense attorney said.
Officials with the state’s attorney’s office did not return calls to address Granich’s comments.
Ward, 18, was the alleged gunman who killed Pendelton and injured her two friends as they sought shelter from the rain under a park canopy in the 4400 block of South Oakenwald.
Ward later told police that he and Williams, 20, were looking for rival gang members to shoot and that Hadiya had nothing to do with their street war, prosecutors said.
Just a week before she was gunned down, Hadiya performed as a baton-twirling majorette at festivities surrounding President Barack Obama’s inauguration in the nation’s capital with her school band, prompting national headlines surrounding her death.
First lady Michelle Obama attended the King College Prep student’s funeral.
Nathaniel Pendleton said that he and Hadiya’s mother, Cleopatra — who stood alongside Barack Obama as he spoke about gun control at the White House Thursday morning — are starting the Hadiya Foundation, an organization that will focus on combating gun violence.
“We’re just trying to make good things come from something bad,” Hadiya’s father said.
Ward and Williams are currently being held without bail in Cook County Jail.
In addition to murder, they also face attempted murder, aggravated battery, aggravated discharge of a firearm and mob action charges.