Man with long history of mental illness and violent attacks is charged with murdering Chase Bank worker

Prosecutors on Saturday accused a man with a long history of violent attacks in Streeterville and the Near North Side of stabbing a 24-year-old woman to death as she worked at Chase Bank, 600 North Dearborn, this week.

Jawaun Westbrooks, 35, was ordered held without bail by Cook County Judge John Lyke after Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Romito laid out the state’s allegations and Westbrooks’ history.

Jessica Vilaythong was helping a customer in her cubicle at the bank when Westbrooks walked in around 11:12 a.m. Wednesday, Romito said. When Vilaythong got up to him, he turned around, walked toward her quickly, pulled a knife from his waist, and stabbed her in the left side of her neck one time, according to Romito.

A surveillance image of the Chase Bank attacker (left) and Jawaun Westbrooks. | Provided; CPD

She said he then fled from the bank and headed into the River North neighborhood while bank customers tried to save Vilaythong. Vilaythong, who lived in Albany Park, died Friday.

Bank surveillance images were distributed to CPD officers and cops assigned to the department’s Office of News Affairs spotted Westbrooks a few hours later in the Loop. Westbrooks had rearranged some of his clothing, but he had a hunting knife strapped to his ankle and still had a Disney princess t-shirt that the attacker wore when police arrested him inside a Walgreens at 2 North State, Romito said.

Westbrooks has an extensive violent criminal history that courts have linked to severe psychiatric problems. Romito detailed several violent incidents from his past, all of which unfolded in the downtown area.

On July 8, 2014, he struck two women in their heads with a hammer as they walked past him on the 400 block of North Lower Lake Shore Drive near Navy Pier, she said. The women were both hospitalized with head injuries from the attack. Police arrested Westbrooks nearby. During a bench trial, a judge found him not guilty of attempted murder and not guilty of aggravated battery by reason of insanity. Westbrooks was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility.

The Chicago Tribune reported in 2014 that Westbrooks had the word “kill” tattooed to his left hand. His mother also spoke to the paper:

“I’ve been trying to find help for him, but it seemed like no one is willing to help,” she said, recalling the last time that she called police she was told officers couldn’t do anything .

“I’m sorry that that happened to them,” she said of the two victims from the Tuesday night attack. “But that’s what I’m trying to say, if the hospital would not let them out…if they made (him) take their medication, this world would probably be a safer place.”

When he attacked the women, Westbrooks was on parole for a 2012 attempted robbery in Streeterville, Romito said. In that case, he asked a woman for her phone in the 200 block of East Chicago and then knocked her to the ground when she ignored him. The woman struck her head on the pavement and looked up to see Westbrooks smile before he walked away, Romito said. Police arrested Westbrooks two blocks away and he later pleaded guilty in exchange for a two-year sentence.

At the time of the attempted robbery, he was on probation for aggravated battery of two police officers at 10 East Chicago, according to Romito. In that case, he punched one cop directly in the face and pushed another. He originally received probation, but he was re-sentenced to serve two years concurrent to the attempted robbery case.

In 2009, he was charged with punching an officer in the eye and spitting in the face of another cop on the 400 block of East Ohio, Romito said. A judge found him not guilty by reason of insanity and involuntarily committed him in 2011.

Westbrooks’ defense attorney said he is unemployed and homeless. Previous arrest records for Westbrooks indicate he listed a home address on the 400 block of East Ohio in Streeterville.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com