A handwritten note titled “Boy profile for exploitation” — allegedly found in the home of a man accused in the 1992 strangulation of a Skokie teenager — can be admitted at the suspect’s upcoming murder trial.
A Cook County judge ruled that the evidence, as well as details about some other alleged crimes and misconduct, can be used against Robert Serritella, 73. The former Park Ridge man is charged with killing 15-year-old David Chereck, whose body was found in a Morton Grove forest preserve by a dog-walker.
The boy had disappeared while out walking, becoming one of the Chicago area’s better-known cold cases until Serritella was arrested in Los Angeles in 2014.
Prosecutors have for months been arguing that Judge Lauren Gottainer Edidin should allow into evidence proof of “other crimes and bad acts” allegedly committed by Serritella in the years before and after Chereck’s death. Authorities say the evidence shows a pattern of Serritella soliciting and committing sex crimes against boys, pointing to his motive for allegedly stalking, abducting and strangling Chereck.
Defense attorneys say past allegations against Serritella, as well as statements he allegedly made saying he had sex with boys, would prejudice the jury.
But Edidin said the “exploitation” note — apparently a checklist of traits to seek in boys to target for sexual abuse — is “relevant evidence,” noting it was found in Serritella’s apartment.
Its contents included bullet points such as, “an underachiever in school or home,” “comes from a home where parents were absent either physically or psychologically,” “usually wont (sic) homosexual experiences” and “suffers from poor sociological development,” according to court documents.
Edidin also ruled that she will allow jurors to hear that Serritella was convicted in California in 1992 of “child annoyance” after being accused of repeatedly following a 14-year-old boy, trying to talk to him and trying to run him over after he learned the boy had reported him to police. Serritella pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years probation, prosecutors said.
“The defendant appeared to be angry with the victim and attempted to run him over,” Edidin said in allowing that crime into evidence.
In addition, Edidin said she will allow prosecutors to use as evidence an alleged 1992 phone conversation Serritella had with a 17-year-old male student from Lane Tech High School in Chicago. Serritella allegedly told the teen that he liked being aggressive in sexual encounters and that strangling someone during sex could heighten the experience.
Though it took more than two decades to arrest him, Serritella had long been suspected in David Chereck’s death. In the days after the teen died, authorities said Serritella twice called police and reported seeing Chereck get into a white car the night he was killed. Serritella himself drove a white sedan at the time, officials said. Authorities have said that Serritella also contacted David’s mother, Esther Chereck, in 2013 and told her he only witnessed her son’s abduction but acknowledged police considered him a suspect.
Serritella, who was in court on Monday dressed in a beige jail jumpsuit, did not speak during the hearing. It’s not yet clear when he will stand trial, but it appears to be months away, if not longer.
Brian L. Cox is a freelance reporter.