Joe Herb McFarlane's legs shook nervously as he awaited the first time he would be in the same room as the man charged with killing his 18-year-old daughter.
Jim McPherson, 21, was arraigned this morning on first-degree murder charges in the death of McFarlane's daughter Janay in North Chicago in February.
McPherson is accused of shooting Janay McFarlane the same day her sister attended a speech on gun violence by President Barack Obama, officials said.
"It's hard sitting here," Joe Herb McFarlane said, while the minutes ticked away as he, along with other anxious family members who filled the benches of the small courtroom of Lake County Judge Christopher Stride, waited for the hearing to begin.
A baby-faced McPherson soon entered the courtroom with a group of other inmates. He was the first to be called and his attorney, Jim Schwarzbach, entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf, for the three counts of first degree murder filed against him.
McPherson will face a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison if found guilty, Stride told him.
McFarlane, from Chicago, was shot at about 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 15, in the 1300 block of Jackson Avenue in the northern suburb, Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said.
McFarlane was walking with two friends to a convenience store near the corner of Jackson and 14th streets when they saw McPherson staring at them. After some type of minor confrontation, McFarlane was shot in the head, Nerheim said. One of McFarlane's friends later identified McPherson as the shooter, he said.
Today, Stride asked McPherson if he had ever been diagnosed with a mental health disorder or been prescribed medication.
McPherson said he was given Ritalin for ADHD, but the last time he took it was "years ago."
A tentative trial date, which is sure to be pushed back, was set for May 31. A status date of April 17 was also set before Judge James Booras.
Nerheim, in office for a few months, said he plans to try the case himself.
After the hearing, McFarlane's mother said that seeing McPherson was emotional and painful.
"All I could do was cry," said Angela Blakely. "It hurts that my baby is not here and my grandson does not have his mother. I can't believe he is so young and he doesn't understand the impact he had on our family."
Joe Herb McFarlane said that seeing the man he believes killed his daughter was jarring.
"It's crazy, it's like you see a kid's face, but he did a man's thing," McFarlane said. "My grandparents taught me to forgive, but it's kind of hard. This guy took my angel from me."
Joe Herb McFarlane said he moved from Chicago's Englewood neighborhood to North Chicago in 2004 on Christmas Eve – Janay's birthday – hoping to escape city violence.
"There's no place to go," said Juanita Scaife, Janay's maternal grandmother. "It's so sad because her life is gone and now his life gone too. I feel sorry for him, I really do."
McPherson remains in the Lake County Jail in lieu of $3 million bond.
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