No bond for 16-year-old girl charged with murder of Uber driver

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SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - A 16-year-old girl used a machete to hack an Uber driver to death in a spontaneous attack early Tuesday in north suburban Lincolnwood, prosecutors said in court Wednesday.

“This is a random act of violence,” Judge Michael Hood said before denying bond for Eliza Wasni, who has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder for the 34-year-old Grant Nelson’s slaying.

The Taft High School student, barely taller than 5 feet with bleached blonde hair, was expressionless at her hearing, wearing an oversized white jumpsuit and blue sweater.

About 1:25 a.m. Tuesday, the first of three rideshare drivers that Wasni encountered that night picked her up and took her to a train station in Des Plaines, Cook County assistant state’s attorney Michelle Cunningham said.

About an hour later, another Uber driver picked Wasni up and took her to a Wal-Mart store near McCormick Bouelvard and Touhy Avenue in Skokie, where she grabbed a knife and machete, and walked out without paying, Cunningham said. No employees tried to stop her.

At 3:18 a.m., a few blocks west of the store, Nelson picked Wasni up in his Hyundai Sonata while driving for Uber, Wasni said.

Within two minutes, the teen began hacking at Nelson as the car approached the intersection of Touhy and Lincoln, stabbing him repeatedly on the right side of his arm, torso, head and chest, Cunningham said.

Nelson pulled up to a condo building in the 7200 block of Touhy, ran to the building lobby and slammed on the door screaming for help, Cunningham said. Responding Lincolnwood police officers followed a trail of blood and found him on the on the grass on the side of the building.

Wasni took the wheel of his car and drove back toward Lincoln and Touhy, where the car hit a median, Cunningham said. Officers found Nelson’s phone in the front seat and saw that Wasni was listed as his Uber passenger, Cunningham said.

Soon after, an officer spotted her hiding behind an office building a few blocks north of the crash scene, Cunningham said. She had taken off her blood-spattered, long-sleeve Chicago Cubs T-shirt but was still holding the bloody knife and machete, Cunningham said.

Officers repeatedly told her to drop the weapons but “she didn’t acknowledge them,” Cunninhgam said. One officer shocked her with a stun gun and she was arrested.

Nelson, a Wilmette resident, told police his passenger had stabbed him, Cunningham said. He died at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston later that morning.

During a press conference after the hearing, prosecutors declined to comment on a possible motive for the killing. Police said she wouldn’t talk to detectives.

Wasni, who has no previous criminal record, goes to school at Taft on Chicago’s Northwest Side, and lives with her single mother, Assistant Public Defender David McMahon told the judge.

About a dozen family members and friends of Nelson attended the bond hearing.

“The details were horrifying and saddening,” his sister, Alexandra Nelson, said afterward. “The loss of intelligence and conversation and nuance and thoughtfulness that he brought into all of our lives is going to be felt, and it will reverberate with us throughout the coming weeks and months and years, and it’s not a hole that can be easily filled,” she said.

Melissa Smetana said she used to work with Nelson at a restaurant in Northbrook, and described him a hard-working, generous friend.

“He was the type to give you the shirt off his back,” she said after the hearing. “If the girl had asked him for something, anything, Grant would have given it to her. It’s senseless.”

In a company statement, an Uber spokeswoman said they were “heartbroken by the loss of one of our partners, Grant Nelson.”

“Our deepest sympathies and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time.”

It was the first homicide in Lincolnwood since 2006, when a murder resulted from an argument between two brothers. In that case, James B. McDurmon was convicted of the the murder of his brother, Lester McDurmon, and sentenced to 60 years in prison.