by Long Hwa-shu
A 34-year-old Mundelein man, held in Lake County Jail on charges of solicitation of murder for hire, was found dead in his cell Wednesday with a strap around his neck, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said.
The sheriff’s office did not officially say it was a suicide, but the man, identified as Jonathan Velazquez of the 100 block of Sandhurst Road in Mundelein had been held on a $1 million bond on the solicitation for murder charges.
The charges grew out of his arrest on Dec. 25, 2015 by Mundelein police on one count of criminal sexual assault and one count of domestic battery. Authorities declined to name the victim. Velazquez was transferred to Lake County Jail June 15. While being held in the jail on a $350,000 bail, he allegedly tried to hire a hitman to kill a witness in the case against him according to LCSO detectives.
Authorities later learned that he had made what they termed as “formal arrangements” to pay more than $1,000 to the hitman. As it turned out, the hitman was actually an informant working with detectives. Because of the additional charges, his bail had been raised to $1 million.
And because of the high-profile nature of the case, the sheriff’s office had kept the defendant out of the general jail population. Instead, he was moved to the jail’s medical unit on July 1 as a standard procedure to separate high-profile offenders from the rest of the inmates.
Velazquez was found unresponsive and alone in his cell at about 12:54 p.m. Wednesday with a fabric strap around his neck. The strap, sheriff’s office said, had been used to secure a television set to an elevated stand.
Velazquez was pronounced dead by paramedics after life-saving efforts including CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator were unsuccessful. An investigation of the death is under way by Lake County Major Crime Task Force.