Protestors demand justice for Kaleb McCall, 17, stabbed to death in Sycamore

Judge to deliberate over whether to transfer teen facing murder charges from juvenile center to DeKalb County Jail

More than three dozen people gather, many holding “Justice for Kaleb McCall” signs outside the DeKalb County Courthouse, 133 W. State St. in Sycamore Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. The group gathered to show support for McCall's family as they attended the latest court hearing for a 16-year-old, McCall's Sycamore High School classmate, charged with murder in McCall's Sept. 7, 2023, slaying.

SYCAMORE – More than three dozen people held “Justice for Kaleb McCall” signs Wednesday outside the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore, a show of support that Nichole McGarvy said she doesn’t believe is enough.

McGarvy, of Sycamore, said her son was only one of “many best friends” of McCall, 17, a Sycamore High School senior who was stabbed to death Sept. 7 downtown, just blocks from the courthouse.

McCall’s classmate, 15, is charged with murder in the teen’s killing.

“Kaleb was everybody’s best friend,” McGarvy said. “He was my son’s big brother when he needed him. When I had [a multiple sclerosis] relapse and I was left paralyzed, my son – who is 3 years younger than Kaleb – was at a really hard point in his life. [The] only reason he made it out was because of Kaleb.”

McGarvy said her son and others like him have struggled in the 160 days since their friend’s slaying and have trouble going to school as they mourn.

McCall, whose loved ones set up a GoFundMe fundraiser to support his family, has been remembered as kind, funny and hardworking. According to McCall’s obituary, he enjoyed bonfires, skateboarding, fishing, playing video games and being with friends.

Police have alleged that a 15-year-old boy – who authorities have not publicly identified – stabbed McCall to death after an alleged disagreement between two groups of area youth, many of whom witnessed the attack.

Kaleb D. McCall, 17, of Sycamore, had just started his senior year at Sycamore High School when he died after a stabbing Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023. His death is being investigated as a homicide by the Sycamore Police Department, and a classmate, 15, is charged in McCall's death.

Court deliberates over custody

The teenager facing charges appeared in court for another hearing Wednesday in front of DeKalb County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Pedersen. The teenager was charged Sept. 11 with multiple counts of murder, aggravated battery and armed violence, according to the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Pedersen has granted the Daily Chronicle limited access to the juvenile hearings. McCall’s parents also were present in the courtroom.

Represented by attorney Jim Ryan, the teenager appeared virtually from where he’s been held in police custody at the River Valley Juvenile Detention Center in Joliet since his September arrest. He did not speak during the hearing.

The teenager was ordered by Pedersen on Wednesday to remain detained as he awaits his next hearing, which is set for 11 a.m. Feb. 21. Under Illinois law, a judge must deliberate the status of a minor’s custody at each hearing.

The teen’s lawyer, however, has filed a motion for Pedersen to reconsider his release, court officials have said.

A ruling has not yet been made. Juvenile court records are not available for public viewing.

At the Feb. 21 hearing, Pedersen is expected to hear arguments regarding whether to transfer the 15-year-old from the juvenile facility to custody at the DeKalb County Jail in Sycamore. If the teenager is transferred, his criminal case and court records could transition to adult court.

The teenager’s potential sentence also could change were he to be convicted as an adult.

It’s too early to say whether that will happen, however.

Prosecutor Roger Smith argued that the severity of what the 15-year-old is charged with would be better handled in adult court.

“The strength of the state’s evidence is not one of the factors in the transfer hearing,” Smith said to the judge Wednesday. “I am not seeing anything in the evidence so far that has changed my position that this case is more appropriately dealt with in the normal criminal courts. ... I don’t think a juvenile court is appropriate.”

Ryan referred to evidence collected by authorities, including messages from the social media platform Snapchat, in relation to the stabbing.

“I would be more comfortable having all the evidence before a juvenile transfer hearing,” Ryan said.

“The petition was filed some time ago. I’ve granted several continuances for additional discovery to be provided,” Pedersen said in reply.

More than three dozen people gather, many holding “Justice for Kaleb McCall” signs outside the DeKalb County Courthouse, 133 W. State St. in Sycamore Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. The group gathered to show support for McCall's family as they attended the latest court hearing for a 16-year-old, McCall's Sycamore High School classmate, charged with murder in McCall's slaying.

Public calls for accountability

Some gathered at Wednesday’s protest, including McGarvy, said they want to see strict punishment handed down for the one they believe responsible for McCall’s death.

“I want to see Sycamore come out. I want to see Sycamore stand for justice for Kaleb,” McGarvy said. “This happened in their own town in the middle of the day. ... You don’t want to stand up so that maybe they can do the right thing here? ... Support the family. Support Kaleb. Support the kids.”

Signs emblazoned with “Long live Kaleb” and “Commit adult crimes serve adult time” littered the crowd.

Caitlin Arwen of Sycamore has a son about McCall’s age also at the high school. Arwen said she wants more people to show up for another planned protest in a week for the Feb. 21 hearing.

“It’s just been so disappointing. I feel like as a community we failed to adequately support them as a grieving family,” Arwen said. “We’re failing this family. It’s really frustrating as another mom. ... I wish we had better systems in place to support these kids.”

What does justice for Kaleb look like for Arwen?

“It looks like some adult accountability,” Arwen said.

This story was updated at 3:40 p.m. Feb. 21, 2024, to correct an earlier version which misstated the age of the teenager accused in the stabbing death of Kaleb McCall. The teenager is 15.

Have a Question about this Daily Chronicle article?