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16-year-old pleads not guilty to fatal stabbing in Bloomington

A gavel sits on a judge's bench. On top of that photo, the words "WGLT Courts" appears.
WGLT file photo

A 16-year-old from Bloomington pleaded not guilty to murder charges stemming from a fatal stabbing at a birthday party last month. 

The defendant, who WGLT is not naming because he is a minor, appeared in a McLean County courtroom Friday morning for his arraignment. All seats in the courtroom gallery were filled. 

The 16-year-old did not address the court during the arraignment. His attorney, Kevin Sanborn, entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf. The defendant is being tried as an adult

The defendant is accused of fatally stabbing Nicholas Zapata, 19, of Normal. Authorities say the stabbing happened late Sept. 23 during a birthday party in south Bloomington. Prosecutors say a witness saw the 16-year-old chase and tackle Zapata after he tried to run from him. Another witness said they saw the suspect pull out a knife and stab the victim, prosecutors said. Police say they recovered a pocketknife near the scene. 

The 16-year-old was arrested shortly after at his father’s house in Heyworth, authorities said. 

Zapata played football at Normal West, which honored him at a Sept. 29 game. In his obituary, his family called his death a “a selfish and senseless act of violence” and that “Nicholas had a lifetime ahead of him that was cut too short by this tragedy.” 

The 16-year-old is being held at the McLean County Juvenile Detention Center. The next pretrial hearing is set for 11 a.m. Oct. 18 with Judge Jason Chambers.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.