A teenage girl was arrested for randomly killing her Uber driver with a knife and machete that she stole from a nearby Chicago Walmart moments earlier. It begs the question: Should there be laws associated with the availability of a $20.00 machete? Should teenagers be allowed to purchase the weapons? Are knife crimes on the rise in the United States?
According to the Chicago Tribune, Eliza Wasni (16) is currently being held in a juvenile facility without bail for the killing of Grant Nelson (34). Prosecutors said Nelson had picked up Wasni early on Tuesday a few blocks away from a local Walmart.
After just a few minutes of travel in the Uber vehicle Wasni, who was “not provoked in any manner,” stabbed Nelson multiple times in his right side. Nelson managed to pull his Hyundai off to the side of the road and ran to a nearby condominium building lobby, yelling “Help me, help me. I’m going to die,” Assistant State’s Attorney Michelle Cunningham said.
Wasni then stole Nelson’s car but quickly after she struck a median and fled the scene on foot, Cunningham said. According to police was found nearby wearing only a bra and leggings. A bloody Chicago Cubs t-shirt was found nearby.
A trail of blood led law enforcement officers to the seriously injured Nelson who was able to describe his attacker to police but died later at a nearby hospital, officials said. Police were able to use the Uber app on Nelson’s phone to see that “Eliza” was the name of his most recent customer, the prosecutor said.
Wasni, who called Nelson a “random victim”, was seen on surveillance footage walking around Walmart with a knife and machete and then leaving without paying for them, according to prosecutors. No word on whether they will pursue a robbery charge as well.
Nelson’s sister, Alexandra Nelson, called the attack “horrifying and maddening” but the family hopes “justice will happen.” Nelson’s brother, Todd Nelson said his brother was “the most gentle, kind person. He never hurt anyone. He was good to animals, he was good to children. He was just trying to do the best he could in life.”
On Wednesday, an Uber spokeswoman issued a statement saying the company is “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.”
The company also said Wasni was in violation of the company’s 18-and-older age restriction for customers. The spokesperson explained that a rider’s access to the service can be removed if the rider is found to be underage and that there is a mechanism for drivers to report riders if they suspect them of being younger than 18.
However, one might wonder — is Walmart negligent for having easy access to weapons? Should machetes be held out of the reach of a minor?
It is still unclear what the motive was for Wasni to commit this horrific crime. Her lawyer, a public defender, said the teen attends Taft High School in Chicago and lives with a single mother.
Although Wasni is being held in a juvenile facility she is being charged as an adult for first-degree murder. In Illinois, first degree is the most serious of the homicide crimes. Illinois is not a death penalty state so the maximum punishment is life imprisonment.
A prosecutor must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant; Intended to kill or do great bodily harm or knew that the act created a strong probability of causing death or great bodily harm. So the key is to prove criminal intent. If a jury or judge finds her not guilty of criminal intent, a sentence can be reduced to reckless homicide or another lesser crime.
The Daily Star reported that brutal machete crimes are on the rise in the UK. A Freedom of Information request revealed police were called to 683 machete-related crimes in just two months. Although no statistics are readily available, it certainly feels like machete crimes are increasing in the US as well.
It’s hard to believe a young teenage girl could commit an act like this on her own free will. But the prosecution has strong evidence that by entering a Walmart and stealing the weapons, she had criminal intent. Is it a result of watching other heinous acts on the news every day? Some type of psychopathic illness? Was she on drugs? GCE will keep you updated as the story unfolds.