near north

No Bail for Man Charged With Murder in Stabbing of River North Chase Bank Employee

NBC Universal, Inc.

A 35-year-old man was ordered held without bail Saturday days after prosecutors say he fatally stabbed a worker at a Chase Bank branch while wearing a distinctive Disney princess shirt which led to his arrest.

Jawaun Westbrooks was charged with first-degree murder in Wednesday’s slaying of Jessica Vilaythong, 24, who was helping a customer in her cubicle area when Westbrooks entered the bank that morning, Cook County prosecutors said during a bond hearing.

Vilaythong left her cubicle to help Westbrooks, and at first he walked past her, but then turned around, pulled out a knife from his waistband and stabbed her in the left side of her neck before fleeing, prosecutors said.

Vilaythong screamed and “was bleeding profusely,” prosecutors said. A witness took off his shirt to put pressure on her wound.

The attack was captured on camera, and images were distributed to officers showing Westbrooks wearing “unique clothing,” including a black Disney princess shirt at the time of the stabbing, prosecutors said.

Hours later, Westbrooks was spotted going into a Walgreens in the first block of North State Street. Officers confronted Westbrooks, who had rearranged his clothing but had failed to conceal the Disney shirt, prosecutors said. A search allegedly revealed a large hunting knife holstered in a sheath on Westbrooks’ right ankle.

He was positively identified as the attacker by a witness, according to prosecutors.

Vilaythong died the next day at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

“Jessica was a wonderful person and valued employee,” Chase Bank said in a statement. “She was extremely outgoing, passionate, hardworking, and quick to help clients. We will miss her greatly.”

Westbrooks, whose family has said he struggles with mental illness, has had several run-ins with the law in recent years. In 2014, he was accused of of attacking two women with a hammer as they walked on the lakefront path near Navy Pier.

He was charged with two felony counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and attempted murder in that incident. Westbrooks was later found not guilty by reason of insanity, according to court records.

At the time of that attack, Westbrooks was on parole for a felony conviction of attempted robbery, prosecutors said. The incident happened in October 2012, and Westbrooks was sentenced to two years in prison.

In 2010, he was charged with aggravated battery to a peace officer after pushing one officer and punching another in the Gold Coast, prosecutors said.

Westbrooks is a lifelong resident of Cook County and is currently homeless, according to a public defender, who added that Westbrooks “does not recall what he was picked up for.”

Westbrooks was next expected to appear in court Sept. 8.

Copyright CHIST - SunTimes
Contact Us