Michael Mernack pleads not guilty in death of Machesney Park teen

The man accused of killing a 16-year-old Harlem High School student last year pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of first-degree murder Wednesday.

Michael Mernack, 36, is accused of killing Rebecca Finkenhofer Dec. 28.

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Before Judge Fernando Engelsma explained each charge in the 54-count indictment, Mernack, who as brought into court in a wheelchair, told the court he was on medication and did not know why he was being charged.

“I don’t know where all this came from,” Mernack said. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

Englesma then read charges from a grand jury indictment. Mernack has been charged with 45 counts of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder, aggravated battery and home invasion. In separate cases, Mernack faces possession of cannabis, misdemeanor assault and two counts of felony domestic battery.

Rebecca Finkenhofer was killed in the early hours of Dec. 28, when an armed intruder the state alleges was Mernack broke down the door of her Minns Drive apartment and opened fire, seriously wounding her 62-year-old grandmother.

The teen was shot and stabbed to death as she fought off the attacker. Rebecca’s 6-year-old sister was hiding in a bedroom during the incident and was unharmed.

Deputies responded to the scene and shot Mernack when he refused to drop his weapon and pointed the gun at officers, Winnebago Sheriff Gary Caruana said. He was transported to a local hospital and was in intensive care while murder charges were pending. He was booked into the county jail Feb. 16. Bond is still set at $400,000.

Mernack is represented by Assistant Public Defender Margie O’Connor. He is due back in court May 2.

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