UPDATE: Investigation finds deputies justified in use of deadly force

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Updated: April 10, 2017

UPDATE: WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) -- Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato says after an investigation by the Winnebago Boone Integrity Task Force, the deputies involved in the Michael Mernack case were justified in their use of deadly force.

In late December 2016, Michael Mernack was shot by deputies after investigators say he wouldn't drop his weapon. Mernack is accused of killing a Machesney Park 16-year-old and shooting her grandmother at a home on Minns Drive. Bruscato says the investigation found the deputies were under attack and in fear of their lives. Both deputies fired their weapons at Mernack, sending him to the hospital.

Mernack is currently in the Winnebago County Jail facing several counts of murder and other charges. His next court date is May 2.


Updated: March 22nd, 2017

UPDATE: WINNEBAGO COUNTY: Ill. (WIFR) The man accused of stabbing and killing a Machesney Park teen pleads not guilty.

Arraignment was held for 36-year-old Michael Mernack in Winnebago County court.


Updated: February 17, 2017

UPDATE: WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) – The man accused in the stabbing death of a Machesney Park 16-year-old has been charged with ten counts of first degree murder.

In addition to the murder charges, 36-year-old Michael Mernack is also charged with one count of home invasion, one count of attempted first degree murder, and one count of aggravated battery with a firearm.
The charges come after the December 28 death of 16-year-old Rebecca Finkenhofer. Mernack is also accused of shooting Finkenhofer’s grandmother, 63-year-old Cheryl Puckett. Puckett has since been released from the hospital.

Mernack was shot by deputies during the December attack after investigators say he wouldn't drop his weapon. He was transferred to the Winnebago County Jail on Thursday after spending weeks in the hospital. The use of force is still under investigation by the State's Attorney's office.

Mernack is currently being held in the Winnebago County Jail on a $2 million bond.


Updated: February 16, 2017

UPDATE: WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) – The man accused of killing 16-year-old Rebecca Finkenhofer is now in the Winnebago County Jail.

Just last week, 36-year-old Michael Mernack was said to be conscious and able to get around after being shot by two Winnebago County Deputies last December. Investigators say Mernack was shot after he didn’t drop his weapon.

Mernack is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the stabbing death of Finkenhofer.

Police also say Mernack shot Finkenhofer’s grandmother, 63-year-old Cheryl Puckett. She was later released from the hospital.


Updated: February 9, 2017

WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) -- The man accused of killing a Machesney Park teen and shooting her grandmother is now conscious at an area hospital.

Michael Mernack was shot by deputies during the December attack after investigators say he wouldn't drop his weapon.

Winnebago County Deputy Chief Mike Schultz says this is not a typical case and this is the first time in his career that a suspect involved in a murder where deputies had to use force would then have to be guarded in the hospital for an extended period of time.

Schultz says 36-year-old Mernack has regained consciousness and is able to get up and move around. Once Mernack is released, Schultz says it won't be long before authorities can move forward with a game plan, charging him further.

Mernack is accused of shooting and fatally stabbing 16-year-old Rebecca Finkenhofer to death outside of her Machesney Park home back in December. Investigators say Mernack also shot Finkenhofer's grandmother, 63-year-old Cheryl Puckett in the face. Mernack was later shot at by two deputies after authorities say he wouldn't drop his weapon. The case is also drawing concerns about order of protection laws as Finkenhofer's mother filed on against Mernack.

"Well the main thing to realize here is that there's only one person involved in this who is responsible For for his actions and that is Mr. Mernack he alone committed this act and he is the sole personal responsible for causing this tragedy to the family," says Deputy Chief Schultz.

Schultz says once Mernack is released from the hospital, he will be released into the custody of the Sheriff's Department and will be transported to the Winnebago County Jail.

The two deputies who shot Mernack who were put on administrative leave are now back on duty. Their names are not being released at this time.


Updated: January 3, 2017

MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (WIFR) – The mother of a 16-year-old stabbed to death outside her Machesney Park home is speaking out for the first time, one day after the Harlem High School student is laid to rest.

Megan Cabay’s daughter Rebecca Finkenhofer was stabbed to death December 28 outside her home on Minn’s Drive. Cabay tells 23 News she filed an order of protection against the suspect, her ex-boyfriend Michael Mernack, one month prior to the homicide where her mother was also shot in the face.

Cabay’s mother is doing better and was released from the hospital in time for Rebecca’s memorial service.

Cabay says she believes she was the intended target on Tuesday, saying she heard of her daughter’s death at work as a CNA at OSF. Cabay says she is still in shock and hoping her daughter’s death with spark an important conversation about orders of protection and the law.

“They need to change order of protections, they are just a piece of paper. They aren't there to protect any families. There are other families going through the same thing because there is nothing to protect them,” says Cabay.

Cabay believes her daughter died while trying to save her 6-year-old sister who was in the home at the time.


Updated: December 30, 2016

MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (WIFR) -- Visitation and memorial services for the 16-year-old girl killed early Wednesday morning in Machesney Park have been made.

Visitation for Rebecca Finkenhofer will be Monday, January 2, 2017 at Harvest Bible Chapel in Rockford from 5:00pm to 7:00pm. A memorial service for the teen will begin at 7:00pm.

The family has asked anyone who attends to where blue or purple, to honor Rebecca's favorite colors.


Updated: December 29, 2016

MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (WIFR) -- The Winnebago County Coroner says the 16-year-old girl killed early yesterday morning on Minns Dr. was Rebecca Finkenhofer. The Coroner says she was stabbed to death. However, investigators say she was also shot, but died from the stab wounds.

Posted: December 28, 2016

MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (WIFR) -- A man is under 24-hour surveillance at a local hospital after he allegedly shot two people, sending one to the hospital and killing another who was only 16 years old.

Just after midnight Wednesday, Winnebago County Sheriff deputies were called to 1028 Minns Drive for an unknown disturbance. Two deputies arrived and confronted an armed man, 36-year-old Michael Mernack. The two shot the suspect after authorities say he wouldn't drop his weapon. Winnebago-Boone County Integrity Task Force was called in to investigate.

"It's a task force that was formed a few years back in scenarios like this where there are officer involved shootings, to make sure that we follow all the rules and regulations to make sure the departments are [held] accountable," says Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana.

After the confrontation, deputies discovered the girl. A MD-1 doctor arrived on scene and pronounced the girl deceased. Deputies also discovered a 63-year-old woman in the apartment suffering from a gunshot wound to her face. They believe that woman to be the teenage victim's grandmother.

North Park Fire Department provided emergency care to Mernack and the 63-year-old woman prior to both being transported to local hospital. Mernack was taken to emergency surgery and remains in ICU with life-threatening injuries. The woman was taken to UW-Madison Hospital where she's being treated for life-threatening injuries.

The cause of death and identity of the juvenile are pending the autopsy of the Winnebago County Coroner's Office.

Winnebago County detectives were called to investigate the girl's death. He has a warrant for aggravated assault with a bond of $200,000.

Any further charges are pending the conclusion of the investigation and review by the Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office.

Right now investigators are identifying Mernack as a friend of the teenage victim's mom. His record shows she filed an order of protection against him last month. The mom says that was because Mernack allegedly hit her.

Mernack has faced domestic violence charges before in a wrap sheet that dates back to the late 1990s.

Authorities are also looking into Mernack's social media accounts. He posted a status on his Facebook page about one hour before the attack stating, "I'm ______ up so if you're on my _____ list, watch out."

Many friends commented below thinking the status was only a joke, later realizing their devastation for the heinous crime.

The victim's mom is remembering her 16-year-old daughter as a Christian who loved to tell people about God. She tells 23 News her 6-year-old daughter was also in the home at the time of attack. She believes the teenager stepped in to protect her little sister.