Readers React to Highland Park Murder, Arrests

Last week, a 20-year-old Highland Park man was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. Days later, three Highland Park residents were arrested and charged with first degree murder.

According to Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim, the accused — Benjamin Schenk, 20, Philip Vatamaniuc, 17, and Michael Coffee, 17 — met with Nutter early on the day of June 3 to buy marijuana from him. Credit: Jacob Nelson
According to Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim, the accused — Benjamin Schenk, 20, Philip Vatamaniuc, 17, and Michael Coffee, 17 — met with Nutter early on the day of June 3 to buy marijuana from him. Credit: Jacob Nelson
It's been a week since a 20-year-old Highland Park man was found dead in Wilmette. 

It's been even less time since three other Highland Park residents were arrested and charged with first degree murder.

Read Patch's full coverage of the Colin Nutter homicide

Colin Nutter, a 20-year-old Highland Park resident who was found dead in Wilmette on Monday, died of a single gunshot wound to the back of the head, according to the Highland Park Police Department. 

According to Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim, the accused — Benjamin Schenk, 20, Philip Vatamaniuc, 17, and Michael Coffee, 17 — met with Nutter early on the day of June 3 to buy marijuana from him. All three suspects are Highland Park residents.

Read Patch's full coverage of the Colin Nutter homicide

Schenk, Coffee and Vatamaniuc got into Nutter's Dodge Stratus, with Schenk sitting behind Nutter. Both Vatamaniuc and Coffee gave statements indicating that they watched as Schenk shot Nutter in the head, according to Nerheim.

Though these details paint a picture of what happened on June 3, they don't explain why. And they don't begin to explore the effect this death will have on the city. Already, the mayor and District 113 superintendent have issued statements to residents. One Highland Park High School alum described how rattled he was by this sudden, awful violence in our community

Patch will continue to investigate the details surrounding this story. In the meantime, we hope you'll share how this news affected you. Leave a comment below by clicking the "Leave a Comment" button. If you have a letter to the editor, post it as a blog or email it to jacob@patch.com.

RRR June 10, 2013 at 08:56 AM
This was unimaginable and as a community I hope parents learn from this to know who their teens are friends with and communicate amongst each other and know where their teens are and what they do. I know it's not easy, as I have a teen but I'm going to be picking up the phone more often calling other parents my kid says he's with and be on top of it. I don't know how 2 17 year olds were hanging with a 20 year old who was obviously insane. It's my fear that my son could find himself in a bad situation and not know what to do and something life changing could result. As parents we do the best we can, but there is only so much you can do and hope the lessons and morals instilled in your kids give them good judgement. But at 17 it's too easy to be an idiot and get in over your head. This scares the crap out of me.
RRR June 10, 2013 at 08:58 AM
It is also my hope that the trolls on these comments keep it to themselves as this is a seriously painful subject that will forever stay with all f us.
Billy Amarantos June 10, 2013 at 12:10 PM
Lock those murders up and throw away the key but first force them to go to rehab!!!
Steven N June 10, 2013 at 04:10 PM
It is sad indeed that this happened but not surprising that it happened here. To many blind eyes have been turned to what happens below the surface in our community...well it surfaced so there's no longer the excuse of ignorance. Wake up, get involved, be aware and act as the adult when it's required.
Local Resident June 10, 2013 at 11:07 PM
First of course it is heart breaking for the loss of young life, in death and also in the criminal system. Truth be told, none of the young men should have been where they were. Selling drugs from his car to being the buyers and murderers.
Local Resident June 10, 2013 at 11:08 PM
Local Resident June 10, 2013 at 11:23 PM
We as parents and adults have somehow turned a blind eye to what is obvious, that we are aware when something is not right with our kids. The ignoring of obvious signs of trouble, If a kid does not have a job,question where is the income coming from, and parttime teenage jobs don't produce large sums of cash, like dealing drugs do. Wd also know as the adults when our kids are hanging with the wrong crowd, we see the changes in focus and motivation, we also know when someone is "a bad seed". When ours kids reach certain ages we try to allow them independence and privacy as they make choices for themselves, STAY INVOLVED. Assert the role given, parent! And as well, involvement with other parents. Despite feeling anger, parents feel saddened and scared. There is so much we invest in for the betterment of our children, Let us all take a closer look at our kids day to day lives activities and friends and involve ourselves with whomever our kids are involved as well. My heart goes out to all of the families affected.
Deerfield neighbor June 11, 2013 at 12:07 AM
Here's what I don't get. You all are smart. Why are so many of you slamming drugs as the problem? Anyone remember Al Capone? Prohibition? When you make something illegal, like alcohol or marijuana, or other relatively harmless intoxicants that people can use recreationally (safely and responsibly), you create a black market that encourages low lifes who are willing to engage in criminal behavior to use or move the product. It remains in demand even if it's illegal. If one could buy Marijuana at the Jewel, just like picking up some Bacardi, or Chivas Regal or Miller Lite, then guess what - no gangland style homicides in your backyard. Everyone needs to be responsible in the use of intoxicants - whether it's the currently legal ethanol in our Pinot Grigio, or the currently and unfortunately illegal THC in the marijuana plant. I agree that teenagers aren't as a group responsible enough to use these products safely yet. A lot of adults aren't. But if marijuana were legal, this Nutter kid would probably be alive and Schenk would be doing something else, hopefully something legal and constructive.
Local Resident June 11, 2013 at 01:22 AM
Standards, we all as as parents are scared. No concerned parent can think about their kid leaving the house and never coming back or leaving the house and not coming back the same. with a charge of murder against a peer. Keep your kids close. I found myself this past weekend taking time to spend time and better know who my kid is close to. I talked to parents and had a all guy sleepover, these are 21 22 year olds, but I had a better sense of whom my son is connecting with. I am not a HP resident, but I live close enough for this tragedy to hit home. We have to admit that without us knowing, our kids are exposed to so much and we can't do a damn thing about that. But we can monitor and make our-selfs aware of our kids activities and involvement. The saddest thing is that this problem is nationwide, losing kids to violence and the rest to prison, we seem to care and want to get involved when it is in our backyards. I plan on seeing my son get his law degree next year and look forward to seeing him married with a family, me being a grandparent one day. I will be and would rather be a nosy always involved parent parent than one with regrets. I keep and continue to say this in all of my post, advocate and live up to the title of PARENT!!!
Local Resident June 11, 2013 at 01:45 AM
Deerfield neighbor, You are totally out of your mind to think that anyone whom wants to see a better world than this for their kids would ever agree relate or realize the possibilities of drugs legalized as a solution for violence. Your Woodstock attitude and days are not a reality for what I see as a future and better world for my kids and future grand kids. And what the hell is THC?? I know my 21 year old drinks Goose Island beer, has never had a joint in his hand or any where near his mouth. How do you dare say a kid would be alive if drugs were legal??? If drugs were legal we would lose and had lost many many more. We are trying to save our kids and preserve a sense of morals and integrity for future generations. You continue with your black market rhetoric wishful thinking and behavior. Jewel will never sell marijuana as long as parents and people like me care for the society our kids live in. Your comments are upsetting and disturbing and not needed at a moment as unsettling as this.
fred June 11, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Parent involvement is key in all communities. I believe mental illness painfully creeps into these scenes all too often. Closely related matters such as drugs have all too often come into play as causal. When in fact tend to be more reflective of the inside problem of familial and thus community wide , breakdown.
V June 11, 2013 at 04:14 PM
Deerfield Neighbor, if you want to talk about legalizing marijuana, talk to your state representative. You have no place saying that if pot was legal this man would still be alive. Shame on you. My condolences to the family of this victim of unnecessary violence.
Mikey Swenson June 13, 2013 at 11:18 AM
I've read a couple of comments about "poor old Colin Nutter", which I found surprising. Sure, normally, the death of a 20 year old is tragic. But, Colin Nutter was killed while selling drugs to two teenagers and another 20 year old. Doesn't that make Colin Nutter a drug dealer? How many other 17 year olds has he sold drugs to? How many 15 year olds? How many 13 year olds? How many Highland Park parents reading this are wondering if Colin Nutter sold drugs to their kids? Does Colin Nutter have any prior arrests for drugs or violence? The picture the media runs in these articles was taken when Colin Nutter was a 15yo freshman in high school. That was five years ago Did he look so young and innocent as a 20 year old drug dealer? Normally, when I read about a drug dealer getting shot during a drug deal, I don't feel too sorry for him. I saw that one reader has set up a "relief fund" of sorts for Colin Nutter's family. What about setting up a relief fund for the victims of Colin Nutter - the ones whose lives have been ruined by Colin Nutter's drugs.
AK June 15, 2013 at 10:41 AM
@Deerfield neighbor. If pot was legal Nutter could be killed by Schenk or another insane for selling pills or heroin.
Deerfield neighbor January 23, 2014 at 12:10 PM
Alright. I'm only 7 months late in responding. THC or tetrahydracannabinol is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. I didn't say Nutter WOULD BE alive if it weren't for illegalization of drugs. I said he PROBABLY would be alive, because he wouldn't be a drug dealer, involved in an illegal and therefore dangerous black market. I have the utmost sympathy for his family. I'm pointing out how their son didn't need to die. And we can partly thank government's misguided policies about 'saving the children'. Illegalization never stopped me from trying pot. And it didn't prevent me from becoming a physician. And it doesn't stop very many young people either. It's just another way to drive up our taxes, put money in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, risk police and civilian lives, destroy young lives through incarceration, etc. all over a fairly harmless substance. Mental health issues are important. No matter what substance is used. It shouldn't deter legalization of marijuana. Read your history books people. Opium was legal in this country in the 20's. Don't be so convinced that your precious teenage or young adult children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren etc. haven't done it. Who would admit it? I'm not a Woodstock hippie. I'm a Libertarian who believes government needs to get out of people's lives. At this point you're well aware of many states starting to legalize recreational marijuana use. And a majority of American adults believe it should be legal. The times they are a-changin'. That's my only Woodstock era reference. A kid smoking marijuana, or using safe heroin in his basement is a much better scenario than a legal adult intoxicated behind the wheel.


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