Former Naperville teenager charged with murder in Colorado rock-throwing death

Former Naperville resident charged with murder in Colorado rock throwing death
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A former Naperville resident is one of the three teenagers who has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with a series of rock-throwing incidents in Colorado that resulted in the death of a 20-year-old woman.

Zachary Kwak, along with Nicolas “Mitch” Karol-Chik and Joseph Koenig, all 18, were arrested Tuesday night at their homes in Arvada, CO, according to a news release from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. The Chicago Tribune reports that Zachary Kwak had lived in Naperville up until 2021.

Besides murder, the three were also charged with extreme indifference, with other charges expected to come from the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Series of rock-throwing incidents before fatal toss

The incident happened around 10:45 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19. As 20-year-old Alexa Bartell was driving on a Colorado road, a landscaping rock was thrown through her windshield, hitting and killing her, authorities said.

A friend had been on the phone with her at the time and said the phone went silent. She used a find my phone app to locate Bartell’s car, and found her friend fatally wounded.

Bartell’s vehicle was one of several which had been hit by rocks, in incidents that began just after 10 p.m. that night. Two of the other incidents resulted in minor injuries to drivers.

Investigators said the three teens were allegedly driving around that night in a black 2016 Chevy Silverado, and threw landscaping rocks at least seven different vehicles. Bartell’s car was the last to be hit.

Phone forensics and public aid in arrests

The sheriff’s department said it was unclear of which suspect was driving. Authorities said mobile device forensics and information from the public helped lead to the arrests.

“Completely shocked”

James Slykas, a former Naperville neighbor of the Kwaks, told the Tribune he was “completely shocked” when he heard the news. He said Zachary was the youngest of two boys, and that the Kwaks were wonderful neighbors.

“To hear this is shocking,” Slykas told the Tribune. “He was a nice kid.”

Suspects returned to take pictures of fatal crash

All three suspects appeared in court via Zoom on Thursday morning from the Jefferson County Jail. Media reports said the three did not appear to show any emotion during the hearing.

The arrest affidavit said that the three circled back to take a picture of Bartell’s car after the crash, according to a report from The Colorado Sun.

“We have to go back and see that,” one of the suspects reportedly said. Karol-Chik said Kwak was the one that threw the rock that killed Bartell, but Kwak said it had been Koenig.  As the three drove back home, they pledged a “blood brothers” oath and vowed to keep quiet about the crime.

According to the affidavit, the three had been throwing objects at cars since February.

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