Matthew Nellessen appeared in court on March 25 of this year, having agreed to a sentence of four years for violating his probation. The judge, who had seen the 19-year-old in his courtroom time after time, decided to show him one last measure of leniency and sentenced him to time served.
Four weeks later, Nellessen bound, robbed, beat and killed his 55-year-old father George, according to prosecutors.
With surprising prescience, Judge Thomas Fecarotta Jr. spoke to Nellessen at the sentencing hearing in March.
"The public is going to say what is with this crazy judge, he got a kid that he gave a break to," Fecarotta said, according to court documents quoted in the Daily Mail.
But he also warned Nellessen against future crimes. "I have already stuck my neck out on the line once for you," Fecarotta said. "If you take another swing, trust me, you are going to go for a very long time."
It would have been difficult for Fecarotta to have predicted the grisly nature of what was allegedly in Nellessen's future. The youth had come before him only for non-violent offenses, including drugs, robbery, and probation violations. He had no violent crimes on his record, according to the ABA Journal.
His life would turn all too violent in less than a month, according to authorities. Nellessen is accused of bringing a three-man crew with him into his father's house and waiting for George to come home from work. The four then allegedly bound him to a chair, took his money and cards, and forced him to sign a $100,000 check. Investigators say Matthew then beat his father with a baseball bat, and, when his father survived that attack, cut his throat with a knife.
"This is a very, very touchy issue because everyone, of course, is going to be saying, 'What if?'" said David Naranjo, Nellessen's public defender, to the Chicago Tribune. "What if the judge did not show the compassion he had, which was a well-founded compassion?'
"We don't know."