Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
WHEATON — Stepping out of the courtroom after her husband was found guilty of killing their infant daughter, a teary-eyed Guadalupe Chavez offered a simple reaction to a complicated situation.
“I believe justice was served,” she said after her husband, Joel, was found guilty of the January 2009 murder of 6-month-old Julyssa Chavez.
DuPage County Judge George Bakalis issued the verdict Monday afternoon to close out a bench trial where prosecutors argued an angry Joel Chavez shook the young girl and threw her across a room inside the family’s home on Terrace Lake Drive on Aurora’s far East Side.
Bakalis found Chavez guilty of two murder counts alleging the 28-year-old man injured the girl knowing there was a strong probability his actions could cause her death. Bakalis did not convict Chavez of three counts that contended Chavez committed the acts with intent to kill her.
Chavez faces 20 to 60 years in prison when Bakalis sentences him, although no sentencing date has been scheduled.
Prosecutors called Bakalis’ decision “absolutely appropriate.”
“Whenever a child is injured, abused or in the worst case, murdered, it is gut-wrenching,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said. “Children look to their parents to protect them and to provide for them, but in this sad case, a ... little girl needed protection from her own father.”
Chavez’s attorney, Steve Muslin, said the distinction between wording of the murder counts is important, especially when considering Chavez’s background that includes a ninth-grade education after growing up in Mexico.
“I still believe my client never had an intent to injure,” Muslin said. “I think it’ll help at sentencing.”
Muslin described Chavez as “a very stoic guy” when asked about the absence of reaction during the brief hearing where Bakalis simply handed a copy of his ruling to attorneys and generally said Chavez was guilty of certain counts without specifically stating them to the courtroom.
The Chavezes are in the process of a divorce, and Guadalupe Chavez is seeking sole custody of a 4-year-old daughter.
Chavez’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 25 for post trial motions before Bakalis.