DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin and Hanover Park Chief of Police Andrew Johnson announced Tuesday, January 9, 2024 that Judge Joshua Dieden granted the State’s motion to detain pre-trial a Hanover Park resident and a Palatine resident charged with carjacking and crashing multiple vehicles in Hanover Park and Itasca. Ricardo Ortega, age 26, of the block of 5600 Pebblebeach Drive in Hanover Park, and Alicia Merlin-Barrera, age 24, of the block of 400 block of Palatine Road in Palatine, appeared in First Appearance Court Tuesday morning, January 9, 2024, each charged with …
two counts of Vehicular Hijacking (Class 1 Felony),
one count of Aggravated Unlawful Restraint (Class 3 Felony),
one count of Aggravated Reckless Driving Causing Great Bodily Harm or Disfigurement (Class 4 Felony), and
multiple Misdemeanors including Criminal Damage to Property and Battery.
The criminally activity began Saturday, January 6, 2024, at approximately 11:58 a.m. just before the Hanover Park Police Department received a call regarding a crash of a hijacked vehicle at Arlington Drive and County Farm Road. The female victim told police that she and another female in the victim’s car were approached by two individuals, later identified as Ortega and Merlin-Barrera, who asked for a ride to a nearby train station. The victim agreed, and the two individuals entered the defendants entered her car — a Dodge Journey.
Allegedly, as the woman drove to the train station, with the defendants in the back seat, Alicia Merlin-Barrera told the driver to stop, and then Merline-Barrera reached from the back seat to grab the car key. Alicia Merlin-Barrera was able to overtake possession of the key after a brief struggle with the driver. Allegedly, at the same time, Ortega began hitting the other woman about her head and face. When the victim stopped her Dodge Journey at a stoplight, she exited the vehicle and one of the defendants got into the driver’s seat, and drove away with the second victim still in the car. A short distance down the road, the alleged carjacker drove the Dodge Journey into a tree, which caused the ejection the female passenger victim.
The passenger suffered several fractured ribs, bruises to her face, a broken finger and a fractured ankle.
A passing motorist who witnessed the crash stopped to help, and parked his Chrysler Pacifica van. When the driver of the van was helping the victim involved in the crash, Ricardo Ortega entered the Chrysler Pacifica van and sat in the driver’s seat. Alicia Merline-Barrera entered the Chrysler Pacifica van, and occupied a passenger seat. Allegedly, Ortega drove away. Allegedly the carjackers were involved in another crash, a few blocks away. Ortega crashed the van into a pole, turned the van around and drove past the original crash at which time officers who were now on the scene observed the van pass them. The offenders entered IL-390 eastbound, and crashed the van again on I-390 near Itasca.
A passing motorist stopped on IL-390 to assist, but Ortega and Merlin-Barrera carjacked his truck, a Toyota Tundra. The carjackers then fled in their third hijacked vehicle. On Saturday, the black Toyota Tundra was last seen northbound on York Road from Irving Park Road in Bensenville.
Hanover Park Police Department located the stolen Toyota in Forest Park on Sunday, January 7, 2024. Officers with the Forest Park Police Department responded to the location and took both defendants into custody, according to the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“The brazen, lawless crime spree allegedly committed by these two defendants is astonishing. What I find particularly disturbing however, is that on two separate occasions, good Samaritans who stopped to help were allegedly victimized by Ortega and Merlin-Barrera as well. Violent crimes, such as alleged in this case, have no place in a civilized society and will not be tolerated in DuPage County. I applaud the Hanover Park Police Department for their truly outstanding work not only in identifying the defendants in this case, but for their efforts in locating the stolen Toyota which led to the defendants’ apprehension. The successful apprehension of the defendants in this case is a shining example of the importance of cooperation between law enforcement agencies. Bearing that in mind, I thank the Forest Park Police Department for their assistance in this case. I also thank Assistant State’s Attorneys Bethany Jackson and Michael McBride for their efforts in securing charges against these two defendants.”
— DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert B. Berlin
“The willingness of members of our community to help others in need is one of its greatest strengths, and those who would prey upon people only seeking to assist them must be held accountable. Hanover Park officers and investigators worked tirelessly over the past several days to see that justice was served for these victims. I would like to sincerely thank State’s Attorney Bob Berlin and his staff as well as the Forest Park Police Department for their assistance in bringing about this result.”
— Hanover Park Chief of Police Andrew Johnson
The next court date for both defendants is scheduled for January 29, 2024, for arraignment in front of Judge Michael Reidy.
Members of the public are reminded that this complaint contains only charges and is not proof of the defendants’ guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial in which it is the government’s burden to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
— DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office
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