Highland Park Fourth of July suspect’s mother had troubled past including abuse allegations

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CHICAGO – The mother of Robert Crimo III, a suspect in the shooting at the Highland Park Independence Day Parade, has had a troubled past marked by allegations of abuse against her ex-boyfriend and other run-ins with the law, according to court documents.

Denise Pesina, 48, also allegedly left Crimo III, 21, in a hot car as a toddler and completed 100 hours of community service for driving under the influence in 2012.

Lake County court documents shed more light on Crimo III’s troubled childhood and his mother’s tumultuous past.

On Monday, the 21-year-old was charged with killing at least seven people and injuring dozens more after he climbed onto a roof above a Fourth of July celebration and then opened fire.

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The police arrest Robert "Policeman" E. Crimo III, 21, the suspect in the mass shooting that killed seven and injured dozens during a July 4 parade.

Police are arresting 21-year-old Robert “Bobby” E. Crimo III, the suspect in the mass shooting that killed seven people and injured dozens more during a July 4 parade.
(Associated Press/ Katherine Rappel/ Highland Park Police)

“If you grow up in that kind of traumatic environment, it can create an imbalance,” said John Kelly, a criminal profiler and psychotherapist who has interviewed many killers. “There is no doubt about it.”

He said early childhood is most important to a person’s formative years, but brain development can continue into the mid-twenties.

In August 2002, when Crimo III was a toddler, Pesina allegedly left him in a hot car for 27 minutes while shopping at Toys ‘R Us.

“Defendant left Robert Crimo III unattended in a motor vehicle while the motor vehicle was parked in a Toys R-US (sic) parking lot, 1610 Deerfield Road, Highland Park, Lake County, Illinois, for approximately 27 minutes , while the windows were rolled down, the car was turned off and the outside temperature was around 79,” the warrant read. He was 2 years old at the time.

In August 2002, when Crimo III was a toddler, Pesina allegedly left him in a hot car for 27 minutes while shopping at Toys 'R Us.

In August 2002, when Crimo III was a toddler, Pesina allegedly left him in a hot car for 27 minutes while shopping at Toys ‘R Us.
(Digital Fox News)

This earned him a conviction for endangering the life or health of a child, a class A misdemeanor.

“If nobody cared about him as a kid growing up, then he didn’t have that empathy,” Kelly told Fox News Digital on Friday. “Why does he have no remorse or guilt or empathy for other human beings? I’ve seen that in a lot of serial killers, because they’ve been abused.”

And in 2012, Pesina was sentenced to one year of probation and 100 hours of community service for driving under the influence after being arrested with a flat tire and a blood alcohol level of 0.21%. She had a “strong odor of alcohol on her breath and could not [field sobriety tests]“, wrote a police officer in a report at the time.

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She performed her community service in a “very commendable manner with a good attitude,” according to a letter from her supervisor.

A photo illustration of accused Robert Crimo III, 4th of July shooter, with his father, Bob Crimo (left) and mother Denise Pesina (right).

A photo illustration of accused Robert Crimo III, 4th of July shooter, with his father, Bob Crimo (left) and mother Denise Pesina (right).
(FBI Document/Facebook)

Further charges include numerous 911 calls to the family’s Illinois home on McDaniels Avenue, in which the parents repeatedly blamed each other for verbal arguments. Many disputes have ended with Robert Crimo Jr., Crimo III’s father, leaving for the night, voluntarily or at the request of the police, and he has been arrested at least once.

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A shocking case arose before Crimo III was born involving Pesina’s ex-boyfriend, Steven Brown.

In 1999, Pesina filed for a protective order against Brown, whom she accused of sexually assaulting her 4-year-old daughter, Crimo III’s half-sister. The girl’s father had already died of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to court documents. She also had to file a lawsuit to establish paternity so the child could have a share of Brown’s estate.

Mother and daughter each took counseling and Pesina spent time in hospital “due to physical abuse by Steven Brown”. Pesina also alleged that Brown harassed her and her daughter by making “unwanted phone calls and appearances at their place of residence.”

Denise Pesina's allegations of harassment and abuse against her former boyfriend, Steven Brown, in 1999.

Denise Pesina’s allegations of harassment and abuse against her former boyfriend, Steven Brown, in 1999.
(Digital Fox News)

Pesina had other issues with men besides her husband while Crimo III was growing up.

A man named David Daniels is named in multiple police reports at the family home, claiming to be Pesina’s “boyfriend”, which she disputed.

She also accused a neighbor, William Hollander, of making unwanted advances to her, and Crimo Jr. called the police one night to tell them the neighbor had given his wife a bottle of wine.

Police also visited the family home twice in 2019 due to alleged threats made by Crimo III, although his parents refused to press charges and no crime was charged.

Had the police or parents then intervened, Kelly argued, Crimo III might not have been able to legally purchase the four firearms he later retrieved, including the Smith & Wesson rifle. M&P 15 that he allegedly used during the massacre.

A combination of photos of suspected 4th of July parade shooter Robert Crimo III (right) and his mother Denise Pesina.

A combination of photos of suspected 4th of July parade shooter Robert Crimo III (right) and his mother Denise Pesina.
(Facebook/FBI)

“The way it usually works is he would have been arrested, he should have gotten a lawyer,” Kelly said. “The prosecutor reportedly said, ‘Take him in for a checkup and get us some reports on him. We want to make sure he’s not a danger.’ … He would have been assessed for his sanity, and at that time I don’t know if he could still have bought the gun.

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The first incident, in April, came after Crimo III allegedly threatened to kill himself. The second concerned death threats against his family. Later that year, he applied for an Illinois gun ownership identification card with his father’s sponsorship.

“I’ve seen this a million times, where alcoholic parents then feel guilty because they’ve been drinking and carrying on and fighting and everything while raising the child, and their guilt causes them to be enablers,” he said. said Kelly, the criminal profiler. “And what all of that means with him is that I don’t know everything because all the information is not there, but it could create a situation where the father would allow him to help him buy the gun.”

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