Illinois Offenders


18 year old killer sentenced years later to natural life for double Illinois murders

Joseph Pace and Thomas Olds

Read and watch video regarding the early release of these Illinois teen killers and the heartbreaking impact on the victims family.

Stephen Pfiel

Read this blog about the psychopathic killer of Hillary Norskog. He accepted life sentences in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. 

Roberto Haynie

The victims families of this killer were shocked to find this lifer trolling for girlfriends on the internet. How can this be legal, to retraumatize victims in this way?

Keith Randulich

Nineteen-year-old Keith Randulich was sentenced to 40 years in prison this morning for stabbing to death his 4-year-old sister with a steak knife. The Lincoln Way East honor student called 911 the night of May 22, 2009, and said he had murdered his sister in the basement of their Mokena home in the 19400 York Drive. Randulich met police at the front door and confessed soon after in an interrogation room, saying he killed his half-sister, Sabrina Clement, because he believed a relative was molesting her. An autopsy found the 40-pound girl was stabbed in the throat nearly 30 times. Investigators found no evidence of anyone “physically abusing” Sabrina prior to the murder. Randulich pleaded guilty in December. In his videotaped confession to police, recorded the night of the killing, Randulich said he had argued with his mother that night over his plans to buy a gun to kill the supposed abuser. Soon after, Randulich’s parents went to a school function with his 14-year-old brother, leaving Randulich and his 16-year-old brother to watch Sabrina. While the 16-year-old played video games upstairs, Randulich told police he and Sabrina went into a sub-basement to watch cartoons. Randulich had his sister lie on the floor, straddled her and tried to slit her throat with a 5-inch-long steak knife he’d taken from the kitchen after washing dishes. “I just told her I loved her and I took out the knife and she smiled at me,” Randulich told detectives that night in the interrogation, his jeans and shirt covered in his sisters’s blood. “I made just a little cut in her neck and she screamed and said ‘Stop!’… There was no going back at that point.” Randulich said he thought he wouldn’t be able to kill the abuser without a gun, and decided slitting his sister’s throat would be the least painful way to kill her. “I just kissed her and said, ‘I’m sorry I had to do that,’ ” Randulich told police. “I really loved my sister.” Randulich went to the kitchen, and called 911 three times. His younger brother, playing a wrestling video game, said he didn’t realize anything had happened until he saw flashing lights from squad cars outside the house. Randulich met police at the door and told them during his interrogation “I just want to get this over with, whatever my punishment is.”


Peter Saunders, age 16, sexually assaulted and bludgeoned and stabbed to death an elderly woman, Elisa Totoni in Chicago in 1983. He made a full statement implicating himself. He was convicted for murder, home invasion, armed robbery and attempt rape. He was sentenced to life without parole on the murder conviction and an aggregate consecutive term of 75 years on the remaining convictions. (Source: Illinois Appellate Court decision in People v. Peter Saunders, 235 Ill. App. 3d 661, 601 N.E.2d 1038, 1992 Ill. App. LEXIS 1483, 176 Ill. Dec. 340 (Ill. App. 1s Dist. 1992).

In October 1995, while Saunders was an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, he sent a threatening letter and then a bomb-like device to Federal Judge Blanche Manning. Judge Manning received a letter from Saunders on October 30, 1995, in which, among other things, Saunders threatened to “put a nine millimeter slug right in your head.” A device in a package capable of detonating arrived for Judge Manning at the United States Courthouse in Chicago the next day, October 31, 1995. Saunders admitted to the FBI sending both the letter and the package. He told the FBI he was furious with Judge Manning for affirming his conviction when she had been an Illinois Appellate Court judge and for dismissing a civil suit he had filed in federal court alleging inadequate medical care by the State of Illinois. (Source: U.S.A. v. Peter Saunders, U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, No. 96 CR 584—Rudy Lozano, Judge. Submitted October 30, 1998, Decided February 2, 1999).


Scott Darnell raped and murdered a 12-year-old girl, Victoria Larson, one month after he was released on parole in connection with juvenile court proceedings on another case. The victim’s mother, Dora Larson, sued the parole officer and the Illinois Department of Corrections for failing to properly supervise and control Darnell. She lost. (Source: Larson v. Darnell, 113 Ill. App. 3d 975, 448 N.E.2d 249, 1983 Ill. App. LEXIS 1678, 69 Ill. Dec. 789 (Ill. App. 3rd Dist. 1983).


Curtis Croft was one of three young men who raped 16-year-old Kim Boyd at Croft’s home in Chicago in 1986. When the gang-rape was over, the men debated what to do with the victim. Miss Boyd was blindfolded with a brown rag that belonged to Croft, laid down in an alley, and run over five times with a car in which Croft was a passenger. One of the others then finished Ms. Boyd off with a knife. Coronor Dr. Mitre Kalelkar testified at trial that Ms. Boyd suffered 40 stab wounds, a broken thigh bone, several fractured ribs, and “skin slippage” on her face which could have been caused by coming into contact with the hot metal underside of a car. Croft was sentenced concurrently to natural life for murder, 45 years for aggravated criminal sexual assault and 10 years for aggravated kidnapping. (Source: People v. Croft, 211 Ill. App. 3d 496, 570 N.E.2d 507, 1991 Ill. App. LEXIS 369, 156 Ill. Dec. 31 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 1991)


This is a quote from the “Overview” section of the legal opinion in People v. Johnny Freeman, 182 Ill. App. 3d 731, 538 N.E.2d 681, 1989 Ill. App. LEXIS 538, 131 Ill. Dec. 306 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 1989):

“Defendant took a five-year-old girl from the fifth floor to a fourteenth floor apartment [of Henry Horner Homes in Chicago]. After sexually assaulting the girl, he shoved her out of a window. When the girl grabbed the edge of the window and screamed for her mother, defendant shoved her a second time and she fell to her death. Defendant was convicted of criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping and murder. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, a consecutive sentence of 60 years, and another consecutive sentence of 15 years.”


While serving a natural life sentence in Pontiac Correctional Center for murders he committed as a juvenile, Griffith killed again: he stabbed a fellow inmate, James Jones, to death with a shank in 1990. (Source: People v. Evan Griffith, 158 Ill. 2d 476, 634 N.E. 2d 1069, 1994 Ill. App. LEXIS 62, 199 Ill. Dec. 715 (Illinois Supreme Court 1994)

Griffith’s juvenile murder was commited when he was 16 years old. On May 11, 1985, in Chicago, he used a hammer, scissors, and two knives to kill Leroi Shanks. (Source: People v. Evan Griffith, 334 Ill. App. 3d 98, 777 N.E.2d 459, 2002 Ill. App. LEXIS 815, 267 Ill. Dec. 656 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 2002).


Wayne Antusas ordered the shooting that killed two eighth-grade girls, Helena Martin and Carrie Hovel, on Dec. 14, 1995, when they were sitting across from their school, Nathan Hale Elementary at 6100 S. Melvina Avenue in Chicago.


For this case information we are reprinting below testimony submitted to the Illinois Legislature by one of the victims’ sisters. Statement of Jeanne Bishop to the Juvenile Justice Reform Committee. March 14, 2007:

“My name is Jeanne Bishop, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have my testimony presented to this committee. I apologize for not being present; I learned of this hearing too late to change a longstanding out of town meeting. What you are considering here today is of such critical importance that I feel compelled to address you in the only way I can. I was told—and perhaps you were, too– that House Bill 1695 was meant to address the issue of 13, 14 and 15-year-olds being given mandatory sentences of life without parole. I learned only a few days ago that the truth is that no one who committed a crime at age 13 is serving that sentence in Illinois. Of 14-year-olds, only four are serving that sentence. Of 15-year-olds, only eleven are serving that sentence. The remaining cases involve inmates who were 16 and 17 years old when they committed their crimes. Thirty people serving a life sentence in Illinois were 16, and 58 were 17, the age of legal adulthood.

That means that the clear majority of people serving natural life sentences which would be retroactively altered by this bill were adults when they received their sentences. And you will be told that there are some inmates serving natural life sentences who were disadvantaged, abused, who had bad childhoods in bad neighborhoods with bad schools, who came from broken homes, who received shoddy legal representation.

I have a different story to tell you. It is a horror story, a true one, about David Biro, who slaughtered three of my family members in 1990, when he was only one month shy of his 17th birthday. Mr. Biro was not disadvantaged: he grew up in the best neighborhoods, living in a nearly million-dollar home in Winnetka. He had the best schools: he was a student at New Trier High School when he murdered my family members. He did not have a broken home: he came from an intact family of a mother, father, sister and brother. He was not abused; rather, he abused others, trying to poison his own family by tainting their milk and shooting at passers-by with a BB gun out of the window of his home. He had the best of legal representation at trial; his lawyers were the respected defense attorneys Robert Gevirtz and Dennis Born. Indeed, the Illinois Appellate Court described the trial which Mr. Biro received the fairest that our jurisprudence could offer any defendant.

Mr. Biro apparently was dissatisfied with his quiet suburban life of safe streets, clean parks, and good schools. He aspired to be a serial killer. He started, as I mentioned before, with his own family and with random bystanders, with small weapons like BB pellets.

That wasn’t thrill enough for him. So he used his ingenuity to forge the application for an Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification Card, which would entitle him to buy an arsenal of real weapons. When his attempt was successful and his mother found out about it, she sent the FOID card to a lawyer. When Mr. Biro learned that the lawyer had his FOID card, he broke into the law office by removing the hinges from the doors, and, while searching for the FOID card, found a .357 Magnum, speed loaders and bullets in an unlocked drawer. He had found what he wanted.

Two days later, he used that gun to execute in cold blood my younger sister Nancy, the three-month-old baby she was carrying in her womb, and her husband Richard. Mr. Biro planned the murder carefully. He brought a glass cutter to their home, quietly cutting the glass of a sliding glass door rather than breaking it out and causing a sound which might alert neighbors. He positioned a chair in the middle of the ground floor of my sister’s home so that he could see every entrance. Then he sat in the chair and waited for her to come home.

When she and her husband walked through their front door, he pointed the gun at them, handcuffed my brother-in-law with cuffs he had brought for the occasion, and terrorized them. A neighbor said she heard my sister begging Mr. Biro, “No, not again!”

My sister offered him all the money she had with her, $500 in cash from the paycheck she had just cashed, to leave them unharmed. He threw the money on the ground and told her that wasn’t why he had come. He forced them into the basement. He shot my brother-in-law once in the back of the head, execution-style. Then he turned the gun on my sister. She told him she was pregnant and begged for the life of her baby. He fired into her abdomen and side and left her to bleed to death. She tried desperately to survive, dragging her body to the basement stairs, which she was too weak to climb. She tried banging on a metal shelf to call for help. No help came. Finally, when she must have known she was dying, she dragged herself over to her husband’s lifeless body and drew in her own blood a heart and the letter “u.” Love you. It was how Nancy had signed her letters to her husband over the years. Then she died beside him.

Mr. Biro attended my sister’s funeral, presumably to enjoy the spectacle of our grief. He kept a trophy notebook about the killings, with press clippings and his own poems about killing my family members, in which he compared himself to the Biblical character of Cain, who kills his brother, Abel. Mr. Biro would go to school and start to speculate with other students about who might have killed this innocent young couple: the Mafia? Terrorists? At the end of the conversation, he would tell his classmates with a smile, “Actually, I did it.” They would laugh off his suggestion as creepy and ridiculous.

Finally, Mr. Biro apparently got tired of not having anyone who could truly appreciate his genius. He told a close friend, in detail, about killing my family members. And he told of a plan to kill again. The next victim was to be a bank guard in Winnetka. Mr. Biro had already started the process of engineering a break-in at the bank. His plan was to enter the bank at night, when no one was on duty, take some money, wait till a guard arrived in the morning, kill the guard, and leave a note. The note would say something to the effect of: “Ha ha, I didn’t have to kill the guard to take the money. I just killed him because I wanted to.”

And this is the hallmark of David Biro. He wants us to understand that he is killing not for a particular reason, but for no reason. He wanted to be sure that his break-in at my sister’s home wasn’t misread as a burglary gone bad: that’s why he left all the money on the floor. It was meant to be a message, as clear as the message he intended to leave at the bank.

And the message is this: I want you dead. I want you dead for no reason other than that I want to kill. It is not merely senseless killing; it is killing Mr. Biro means us to see and understand as senseless. Fortunately, the friend turned in Mr. Biro before he could take another innocent human life. I have no doubt that, were he released from prison by this irresponsible bill, he would take up where he left off and kill again.

And if that happens, I fear less for my family members, for my husband and two small sons, than for your family members. Because it would make perfect sense for Mr. Biro to come and find me and finish the job of killing my family if he were let out of prison. It would make no sense for him to kill your family. And Mr. Biro is the master of the truly senseless killing.

Mr. Biro not only received a mandatory sentence of life without parole for the double homicide and home invasion. He also received, from Judge Shelvin Singer, one of our most respected jurists, a discretionary sentence of life without parole for the intentional killing of an unborn child.

Judge Singer could have sentenced Mr. Biro to a term of years, but he chose not to. And in his remarks from the bench at sentencing, Judge Singer noted what I did before you here today. That Mr. Biro had every advantage. That he had grown up not with violence, but with peace and security. That he possessed intelligence which he had turned to evil. That he had acted in a calculated manner which was sophisticated far beyond his years. That the killing was exceptionally brutal and heinous.

Enough of my horror story. My question is this: why is this horror story the only one you will hear today from victims? Why are you not hearing from the hundreds and hundreds of other family members of the many other victims?

The answer is simple: because they were never even notified of the bill’s existence. They were never notified about this hearing. (We have heard it said, without any confirmation, by one of the bill’s proponents that perhaps one family has been told, but he and other of the bill’s backers concede that they have notified no other victim). I found out about the bill by an accident of fate, not by design of those who advocate the wholesale reintroduction of parole to killers who were never supposed to be paroled.

How many other horror stories from victims might you hear today if they knew this hearing was taking place? Did no one think those victims’ families deserved to be told that their loved ones’ killers might walk the streets again unless they were here today to raise their voices against it? Does anyone here really believe that all those victims chose to remain silent in the face of a bill which would annually threaten them with release of their loved ones’ murderer?

The stench of injustice surely must permeate this room sufficiently for you to smell it. It is the rank smell of unfairness, of the lack of the most basic consideration for innocent people who have suffered enough.

This bill was badly conceived, drafted by a criminal defense lawyer with no input from victims. It was introduced without knowledge of victims or even of some of the respected experts on juvenile justice who have been painstakingly studying this issue. This bill does not deserve your vote. The inquiry into this issue can and will go on, but this deeply flawed bill should end here.

People Magazine story on David Biro: November 12, 1990

David Biro Said He Was a Killer

Nancy and Richard Langert of Winnetka, Ill., a prosperous Chicago suburb, were an affable, hardworking couple whose lives seemed filled with promise. Nancy, 25, was a corporate lawyer’s daughter from Winnetka, who sang in the church choir and performed in community theater. Richard, 30, a burly former Chicago Catholic high school athlete, delighted in hosting parties for family and friends. Both had good jobs at Gloria Jean’s Coffee Bean Corp., a chain of gourmet coffee retailers based in Arlington Heights, Ill. Richard supervised production; Nancy worked in the franchise sales department. After three years of marriage, they were expecting their first baby and preparing to move into a new house closer to their work. “We have everything going for us,” Nancy told friends in January. “This is going to be our year.”

But when they returned home from a family dinner celebrating Nancy’s father’s birthday on a clear moonlit Saturday night last April, an intruder surprised them. The next day the Langerts failed to show up at church or answer their phone. At 4 P.M. Nancy’s father went to the town house and discovered their bodies lying faceup in the basement. Richard had been handcuffed and shot in the back of the head. Nancy had been shot in the elbow, side and stomach. With her finger, she had tried to scrawl a message in blood. At first, rumors circulated that the letters spelled IRA. Later, police concluded that the message was a heart next to the letter U.

Though the intruder had rifled Nancy’s purse and torn through the boxes the Langerts had packed for their move, nothing appeared to have been taken. The $500 Nancy had from a paycheck cashed the previous day was strewn on the living room floor, leading police to rule out burglary. They followed hunches that went nowhere: They hunted in vain for clues of marital infidelities, unpaid debts and cocaine smuggling at the coffee company warehouse. One theory was that the murders might have been committed by a vengeful client of Nancy’s father. Another was that Irish terrorists had retaliated against Nancy’s sister, an attorney who monitored human rights abuses in Northern Ireland, a supposition the family considers preposterous. “What was so outrageous about the investigation was that these kids were as straight-arrow as they come,” says a family friend. “All the wild speculation only added to the grief and suffering of everyone who loved them.”

It seemed for a time that the killer might never be found. For six months the FBI and police from seven Chicago suburbs had run a maze of dead-end trails trying to solve the shocking murders. The killings had stunned a community still dazed by the tragic shooting of six elementary school children two years earlier.

The one place lawmen apparently did not pay enough attention to was the town of Winnetka itself. But at the community’s highly regarded New Trier Township High School, senior David Biro, 17, a lanky honor student known for his biting sarcasm and perverse humor, mockingly bragged to classmates that he had shot the Langerts. Accustomed to Biro’s frequent claims that he was a hired assassin, drug dealer and street-gang member, most of his fellow students did not take him seriously. Finally, however, one of Biro’s schoolmates decided that there was more to the boy’s claims than mere braggadocio. Early last month he told Winnetka police what Biro had been saying. Investigators listened closely, since Biro had mentioned details of the murders that had never been publicly released.

It wasn’t the first time Biro had caught the eye of police. According to friends—all of Biro’s acquaintances cited in this article have insisted on anonymity since they are potential court witnesses—he was admitted to Charter Barclay, a psychiatric hospital in Chicago, three years ago after reportedly trying to poison his parents, brother and sister with tainted milk. Since then he had been stopped by police for a series of minor infractions. When the high school informant told police of Biro’s claims of involvement in the Langert killings, investigators recalled that Biro had been spotted, wearing black clothing, near the murder scene on the night of the slayings.

On Oct. 5, the day after police learned of his boasting, Biro was taken into custody for questioning as he left his parents’ three-story stucco home. After police searches of his bedroom uncovered items, including a glass cutter, handcuffs and a .357 Magnum revolver, that had been stolen from the office of Biro’s former lawyer, the teenager was charged with first-degree murder of Richard Langert and his pregnant wife, Nancy, and the intentional homicide of their unborn child. A .357 Magnum can fire the type of .38-caliber bullets used in the murders, and while law enforcement officials have revealed few details of their investigation, they say they are confident that the .357 Magnum and other items taken from Biro will link him to the murders. Biro is being held at the Cook County jail without bail, awaiting his Nov. 21 arraignment.

Biro’s arrest has bewildered the community and left everyone, including the police, wondering why a child of privilege might have committed such a crime. Drawings and writings recovered from his room have led police to consult with ritual-crime experts to determine whether Biro may have dabbled in destructive occult beliefs. His closest friends wonder if Biro may have been “pushed or dared” into committing a crime as a street-gang initiation—or whether he might have killed the Langerts at the behest of someone else.

Some classmates say Biro was driven, as one acquaintance put it, “to test his limits.” A red notebook, found in his room by police, contained underlined news articles about the murders, including a magazine story in which an attorney for Nancy Langert’s sister observed, “I bet if they ever do catch the culprit it will turn out to be some local teenager.” Says one girl: “If [Biro] did do it, it’s because he wanted to commit the perfect crime. Dave viewed everything as an intellectual challenge, and he may have been too smart for his own good.”

One question remains: Why the Langerts? Though Biro’s parents were casually acquainted with Nancy Langert’s parents, police admit they are puzzled about the nature of the relationship—if any—between Biro and his alleged victims. Although the teenager accompanied his mother to the Langerts’ funeral, police say there is no evidence he knew them before the night that their paths may have fatally crossed.

While Nancy and Richard Langert appeared to be living their dream, David Biro was decidedly less content. The son of a successful public relations executive, David, the youngest of three children, was an intelligent, inquisitive youth who suffered the painful rejection of classmates. In eighth grade, he resorted to wearing a fake cast on his arm to ward off the attacks of other students who chased him after school. He, in turn, began harassing neighborhood children with urine-filled balloons and BB guns. “They thought he was weird, so he kept up the image,” says a former classmate.

After his hospital stay, Biro admitted to friends he felt even more like an outcast. As a defense against stinging remarks that he was “psycho” and “crazy,” he cultivated the role of a tough guy. He studied martial arts, had his arms tattooed, flashed street-gang hand signs and dressed in a long black coat that he believed made him look like a gangster.

Professing dislike for the “preppie” crowd that dominated New Trier, he sought companionship from an older group of friends in the city, including some he claimed to have met while he was hospitalized. Yet he also ran for class president (he lost), joined the high school cross-country team and began scouting colleges. “No one could ever figure Dave out,” says a fellow student. “Everyone knew who he was, but no one really knew him.”

Perhaps Biro didn’t either. Observes a friend: “He was always looking for answers for the meaning of things, like who God is and who the devil is.” Violence and power seemed to fascinate him. He talked about the “insane genius” of Charles Manson and Hitler, and he was intrigued by movie villains and assassins, often mimicking the characters. One of his favorites was the psychopathic hit man played by actor James Woods in the film Best Seller. Acting the part one day, Biro demonstrated to a companion that he could withstand pain when he burned his palm with a cigarette. Says a friend, “He said he wanted to be the ultimate assassin.” When Biro goes to trial, Winnetka may finally learn whether that ambition became more than a fantasy.

Angelo Cobbins, Sharee Musgray

2 teenagers charged as adults in killing Jan 9, 2011Angelo CobbinsTwo teenage boys were charged as adults in the robbery and murder of a 59 year-old man in a Chicago Near West Side playlot. Angelo Cobbins, 17, (pictured above) of the 1300 block of West Roosevelt, and Sharee Musgray, 15, of the 1300 block of South Throop, were charged with first-degree murder in Tuesday’s beating death of Benjamin West, of the 1200 block of North Austin. Cobbins was ordered held on $500,000 bail Thursday, and Musgray was ordered held on $1 million bond Saturday. Police said the teens robbed West on Tuesday, beat him and left him in a playlot in the 1300 block of West Hastings near Fosco Park. West was found lying on the ground at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and was later pronounced dead. An autopsy determined he died of blunt head trauma. Video from Chicago Housing Authority cameras in the area showed a vehicle circling the scene shortly after the beating, police said. Detectives found the vehicle, which led them to Cobbins, police said. Musgray was arrested Thursday, police said.

Eric Carson
The Associated Press Jan 2011
CHICAGO—A Chicago teenager who pleaded guilty Friday to participating in the beating death of a high school honor student that was caught on video was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Eric Carson, 17, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the 2009 death of 15-year-old Derrion Albert. Carson, who was 16 at the time. Carson was captured on videotape hitting Albert in the back of the head with a large board. The video shows that after collapsing, Albert was beaten and stomped by several other teens. Carson is the third person convicted in connection with the September 2009 attack. A 15-year-old, who was tried as a juvenile, was convicted in December of first-degree murder in Albert’s death and sentenced to a juvenile detention center until his 21st birthday. Silvonus Shannon, 20, was convicted earlier this month of first-degree murder and faces a sentence of up to 60 years in prison when he returns to court Feb. 14. Two others, Eugene Riley and Lapoleon Colbert, still face charges in the attack that drew international attention when the video of the street brawl was posted online. Assistant Public Defender Lorne Gorelick, who represented Carson, said he and his client sat down with prosecutors to discuss a plea deal in early January. Under the agreement, Carson must serve 100 percent of his sentence. He will receive credit for the nearly 18 months he was being held in Cook County Jail awaiting trial. The Chicago Tribune reports Carson wept as he said goodbye to his family after the sentence. As he used his khaki, jail-issued shirt to wipe tears from his face, Judge Nicholas Ford wished Carson luck. Dozens of relatives and friends of Carson crowded the courtroom. Several cried loudly as the hearing came to a close, and others shouted “No!” while one woman yelled, “26 years? That’s crazy!” Members of Albert’s family also attended the hearing. However, they left before the emotional outbursts. Both families refused to comment afterward. The attack on Albert marked the most vivid example of the violence that in a six-month period of 2009 claimed the lives of more than 20 Chicago public school students. It also prompted President Barack Obama to dispatch top Cabinet officials to Chicago to discuss ways to quell the violence.

Fabian Eason

Fabian is serving a 45 year sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections for the murder of Lakesha Walker. He was 16 years old when he murdered her.

At trial, the State published defendant’s written statement, which was taken on September 5, 1998.   Defendant’s mother was present while defendant’s written statement was taken.   That written statement provided the following account of events.   On the morning of September 4, 1998, defendant went to Lincoln Park High School, where he was a sophomore.   He was wearing a red and blue striped shirt and black pants.   He brought an automatic handgun with him to school.   The gun was black and contained seven rounds.   The gun had been hidden outside his house.

When defendant left school that day, he was with Michael Jones, Aaron Frelix, Grayland Holmes, and Sedrick Pace.   Defendant is a member of the P-Stones gang.   As defendant and his friends walked on the east side of Larrabee, a group of Gangster Disciple gang members (G.D.s) were walking on the west side of the street.   Defendant saw approximately nine G.D.s and five girls walking behind them.   The G.D.s were “flashing their gang signs” and yelling “Stone killer,” which is a term of disrespect to defendant’s gang.   Defendant did not see any guns, knives, or any other weapons with any of the G.D.s or the girls.   The G.D.s were “throwing up the ‘forks’ ” and “throwing down” defendant’s gang sign.

Defendant’s statement to police further provided:

“Fabian states when they reached Blackhawk, he started to walk east.   Fabian states he then turned around and ran back to the corner.   Fabian states he then pulled out the gun.   Fabian states he pointed the gun at the group and then fired seven (7) shots.   Fabian states when he started firing, the group started running.   Fabian states after he fired the gun, he put it back into his pocket and ran.”

Defendant ran to his apartment, changed his clothes, and left the apartment.   He left the clothes that he wore to school on the floor in his room.   He put the gun in his right pocket.

Outside, someone told defendant that the police were looking for him.   He went to the Laundromat for about five minutes.   Defendant then saw his mother and police officers standing outside.   Defendant went to “Sunshine’s” house.   While at Sunshine’s house, defendant spoke to Dennis Booth on the telephone.   Booth picked up defendant on Hudson Street and drove him to Clybourn and Diversey.   Defendant threw the gun into the river.

At trial, Theresa Simmons testified that she and Lakesha Walker, the victim, were walking north on Larrabee Street with a group that included five or six boys and three girls.   She saw defendant walking in the same direction on the opposite side of the street with a group that included four boys.   Theresa testified that the two groups were walking from school on opposite sides of the street for 20 to 25 minutes before the shooting occurred.   She noted that the boys walking with her were “throwing up” gang signs and demonstrating their gang affiliation.   She could see defendant in the other group across the street “until he cut, like out up between Orchard and then cut back through the alley.”   When he reappeared, Theresa saw defendant pull out a gun.   When defendant pulled the gun out, the rest of his group “sort of walked off” except for the “dark skinned boy.”   She and the victim began running.   Theresa heard six or seven shots fired.

On cross-examination, Theresa stated that the five or six boys that she was walking with starting making comments to the boys across the street “saying they should beat them punk niggers.”   She stated that the boys with her were not making hand gestures or “throwing up the gang sign, nothing like that.   They was just talking.”   Contrary to her direct examination testimony, Simmons testified that neither group of boys represented their gangs or used gang words.

Tasha Simmons testified that on September 4, 1998, at about 3:15 p.m., she and a friend were walking north on the west side of Larrabee near Near North High School.   The west side of Larrabee is G.D. territory.   As they walked, four boys and seven girls, including the victim, were walking toward them.   The victim is Tasha Simmons’ cousin.   Tasha came within 12 to 15 feet of the group walking toward her.   Defendant was on the other side of Larrabee, standing on the corner across the street.   Tasha saw him “throwing down the fork.”   The “fork” is the G.D.s gang sign and “throwing it down” means “G.D. killer.”   After defendant threw down the fork two or three times, he pulled out a black gun from his right side and pointed it toward the group that the victim was walking in.   Tasha did not see anyone else with a gun.   The groups started running.   Tasha saw somebody fall as she ran.   She saw the victim’s group for four or five minutes before she heard shots fired.   During this time, she never heard the G.D.s say anything to the people across the street.

Sedrick Pace testified that on September 4, 1998, at about 3:15 p.m., he was walking home from school with three classmates, including defendant.   They were walking on Orchard toward Larrabee.   He saw about nine people across the street.   Once Pace and his friends reached the corner of Blackhawk and Larrabee, defendant went into the street about 8 to 10 feet.   Pace then saw defendant argue for a while and then he “[d]ropped the fork.”   The boys on the other side started to walk over, but they never walked into the street.   Defendant pulled out a black gun from his right pocket and fired six or seven times.   The people on the other side of the street scattered.   Sedrick did not see a weapon in anyone else’s hands.   On cross-examination, Pace testified that the other group “threw down a five,” which meant disrespect to defendant’s gang.   He also heard someone say to defendant and his friends, “We are going to beat your ass.”   Pace heard one of the girls with the G.D.s across the street say, “[I]t is only a couple of them, why don’t y’all go over there and beat them up?”

Detective Brian Killacky testified that on September 4, 1998, at approximately 3:50 p.m., he received a call indicating that a girl had been shot on the property of Near North High School.   Killacky proceeded to the hospital and spoke to the physician attending to the victim.   The doctor informed the detective that the victim died from the gunshot wound.   Killacky then went to the intersection of Blackhawk and Larrabee.   At the scene, he observed six bullet casings lying on the ground, which indicated to him that six shots had been fired from a semi-automatic gun.   At the station, Killacky interviewed several witnesses to the shooting.   Theresa Simmons was interviewed and she identified defendant as the shooter.

Melissa Rapoza testified that she was traveling westbound on Blackhawk at about 3:30 p.m. on September 4, 1998.   She stated that as she attempted to turn down an alley she “heard two pops” coming from the west that she thought to be gunfire.   As she slowed her vehicle, she “saw a young man walking, eventually running with his arm pointing west” in front of her car.   Rapoza immediately stopped. She noticed “like a sulfur smell” in the air.   She saw a handgun in the young man’s hand.   She could see his face.   Rapoza saw him put the gun into the right front pocket of his pants.   She recalled that he was wearing dark pants, navy to black in color, and he was wearing a shirt with wide, horizontal red and dark stripes.   Days after the incident, Rapoza identified the photograph of the young man she saw with the handgun.   In court, Rapoza identified defendant as the person that she saw holding the handgun.

ADDOLFO DAVIS’s Supreme Court Case

A story on an Illinois case featured on Al-Jazeera America, with a video interview of NOVJL’s then President.

America Tonight THE FLAGSHIP

NOV 13, 2013

After more than two decades in prison, a second chance

Adolfo Davis was convicted of being an accomplice to a double murder that happened when he was 14.
Adolfo Davis was convicted of being an accomplice to a double murder that happened when he was 14. He hopes Illinois overturns his life without parole sentence.
 America Tonight

In October 1990, three members of Chicago’s Gangsters Disciples went out to settle a score, and shot dead two members of a rival gang.

The youngest of the group, just two months past his 14th birthday, was Adolfo Davis. It was never proven that he fired his gun, but he was an accomplice. Davis was tried as an adult, convicted of double murder and sentenced, as the law required, to life without parole. Barely 5 feet tall and just over 100 pounds, Davis went off to prison. Years later, he started to realize that prison is where he would die.

“My journey was written before I even joined the gang,” Davis told correspondent Christof Putzel in an exclusive interview, part of the second installment of America Tonight’s “Crime and Punishment” series. Putzel visited Davis in Stateville Correctional Center, a maximum security prison in Crest Hill, Ill.

“My destiny was written when I was born into a chaotic family,” Davis continued. “So being born into that, as many other kids get born into it every day, it’s like life is already written for us.”

“It boggles my mind that anyone would choose to use Illinois’ limited resources to keep Adolfo Davis in prison for more than he’s already been in prison.”

Jill Stevens

Adolfo Davis’ former prison therapist

Juvenile life without parole is banned in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every single country in the world except three: Somalia, South Sudan and the United States. In Somalia and South Sudan, there are no known cases of people serving a life without parole sentence for a crime committed as a minor. In the U.S., there were around 2,500 as of 2008, according to a Human Rights Watch tally.

In 2012, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and bar associations from Japan to South Africa filed a joint amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to outlaw the practice as cruel and unusual. Last summer, the Supreme Court did just that, concluding in Miller v. Alabama that it was unconstitutional for a child’s crime to automatically trigger a life without parole sentence. Now, courts have to take mitigating circumstances into account.

But it was left to the states to decide whether this ruling applied retroactively, and the results have been mixed. Davis’ case comes before the Illinois Supreme Court in December, and if the court accepts the ruling as retroactive, Davis could be resentenced and released as early as next year.


States juvenile life sentence without parole

The different responses of state legislatures and courts to the Miller v. Alabama decision.
Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts

Taking childhood into account

Davis’ childhood was anything but easy. His father was absent and his mother was a drug addict. His grandmother, who was also caring for a bedridden husband, a son with mental disabilities and other grandkids, became his primary caregiver.

“My grandmother, my heart,” Davis told Putzel. “She took care of me and everybody else, you know. But she couldn’t keep an eye on me a lot, or pay as much attention as I needed at the time. So it led me to the streets.”

Davis had his first brush with the law at the age of 9, when he was hanging out at the gas station, trying to pump gas for money. Customers weren’t coming, and he was so hungry it hurt. When a little girl came out of the gas station store with a bag of food, he tried to snatch it. Instead, he only managed to scrounge $0.75 and $3 worth of food stamps that fell to the ground in the scuffle. Police found him soon after in a nearby restaurant.

Adolfo Davis
Adolfo Davis

His file also shows that a young Davis would bang his head against the wall until it bled, burn himself with cigarettes and wet the bed,Chicago Public Radio reported. He also suffered nightmares, severe insomnia and hallucinations. According to court documents, the juvenile court acknowledged that Davis had fallen through the cracks of the child welfare system.

As he got older, Davis started hanging out with older guys who were in a gang. They gave him a roof, food every day and a few hundred dollars a week just to stand watch.

“It was like heaven for me,” Davis said.

In prison, Davis stuck to his gang, which would eventually land him four years in isolation for misconduct. There, he recalls being visited constantly by the voice of his grandmother, telling him over and over, “You’re better than this.” He decided he wanted to change.

Jill Stevens, Davis’ therapist during his period in isolation, can’t believe that Davis is still behind bars.

“I think most people would feel like you should need to be a pretty heinous, remorseless person to be locked up for your entire life without a chance to go before a parole board to see what they think of you,” she told Putzel.

“The 17-year-old who killed my family members was not a child.”

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins

Victims’ rights advocate

Some juvenile offenders serving life without parole are callous murderers. Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins believes that the boy who brutally killed her sister while pregnant falls into that category, and as the president of the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers, she’s a leader for efforts nationwide to defend life sentences for juveniles.

“The 17-year-old who killed my family members was not a child,” Bishop-Jenkins told America Tonight back in September. “He planned the murder for months in advance, months. He was not a poor kid from a gang-infested neighborhood. He was a white rich kid, who lived in a $3 million house, and he did this because he was bored and was thrilled by violence and evil.”

Bishop-Jenkins advocates on behalf of victims’ loved ones, who may be traumatized by the fear of an offender being released again. She thinks it’s impossible to reopen all these decades-old cases and recreate due process. But keeping these individuals behind bars also comes at a cost.

“It boggles my mind,” said Stevens, “that anyone would choose to use Illinois’ limited resources to keep Adolfo Davis in prison for more than he’s already been in prison.”

Davis has had more than two decades to stomach his life sentence. He told Putzel that his greatest fear is still dying in prison. But he admits that the idea of reentering the outside world is scary.

“All the terror that you feel trying to come to prison, it’s like reverse for me,” he explains. “Like, this is all I know.”

Davis is confident about the first thing he’d do if he ever gets out: He’s heading to Disneyland. Whether that day might be coming, however, is still not a given.

“I don’t want this to be the last thing I see,” Davis said. “It’s a whole beautiful world out there and me dying in here, it’s like a nightmare.”

Brandon White

DECATUR – A 17-year-old man received a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to first degree murder in the Aug. 2009 stomping death of a 61-year-old man. Branden J. White, who has been held in custody since his arrest on Sept. 3, 2009, was sentenced for his role in the beating of Jerry Newingham, who was killed in Aug. 2009 when a group of teens attacked him and stomped on his head. White will serve 100 percent of his sentence, according to sentencing guidelines for murder convictions. He will be eligible for parole in 2029. Four of the other defendants are scheduled to be tried on June 27. Those defendants – who will range in age from 15 to 18 years old on that date – will all be tried as adults. One of the six defendants charged with first degree murder – who prosecutors believe did not physically take part in the attack – is expected to testify as a witness for the prosecution. White appeared in the courtroom of Associate Judge Timothy Steadman Monday morning, accompanied by his attorney, Macon County Assistant Public Defender Monica Hawkins. Family members of Jerry Newingham were in the courtroom during the hearing. Under questioning from Assistant State’s Attorney Nichole Owens, White said he was present at the attack on Newhingham, which occurred at about 4 p.m. Aug. 24, on the 500 block of West Sawyer Street. White said he observed Deonta Johnson, Elliott Murphy and Fredrick Rhone attack the victim. He also saw Murphy stomping on the victim’s head. White said he saw that the victim was badly injured and not moving at the time of the attack. He later heard Murphy bragging about stomping on the victim’s head. After the incident, White said he discarded the shirt he was wearing, a brightly colored polo shirt that was easily recognizable, in order to avoid being recognized by witnesses.White also admitted that he was present at the robbery and attack of Kevin Wilson, 46, which occurred about 70 minutes later in Garfield Park. Wilson was seriously injured, but has recovered. He has no memory of the attack. White said he saw Murphy jump on Wilson’s head with both feet. He later saw Murphy wiping blood off his shoes with a towel. He said Deonta Johnson and the Rhone brothers, Fredrick and Dedrick, all took part in Wilson’s beating. White observed that Wilson was badly injured and not moving during and after the attack. White testified that the teens were all smoking marijuana before and after the attack. White will begin serving his sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections immediately.

Patty Columbo

Though 19 at the time of the crime, definitely an adult, her youth then is still a point of advocacy by some for her release, despite the fact that she committed one of the most grisly, historic, and vile murders in Illinois history.

 Columbo seeks parole 35 years after murders

Opponents fight release of woman convicted of killing her parents and brother

Columbo seeks parole 35 years after murdersPatricia Columbo, then 19, arriving for court in 1976. She was convicted of murdering her parents and brother.

March 2, 2011
The sleepy neighborhood in Elk Grove Village still attracts the occasional visitor seeking a glimpse of where one of the northwest suburbs’ grisliest and most notorious crimes took place. The home on Brantwood Avenue has been occupied since 1980 by Rosa Gomez and her family. She said she doesn’t think or talk much about the murders, which occurred four years before she moved in, but acknowledges that if she’d known about them beforehand, she might never have bought the place. For the few neighbors who were there at the time and remain, the memories are distant, but one sentiment seems universal: No one wants to see Patricia Columbo back in the area again. “It was just so appalling. … You did feel quite uneasy. People felt creepy about it for quite a while,” said Beverly Pittelko, who lived a couple of streets away at the time. Columbo, who was 19 at the time of the 1976 murders, was convicted along with her boyfriend, Frank DeLuca, of shooting her parents, Mary and Frank Columbo, slitting Mary Columbo’s throat and stabbing Patricia’s 13-year-old brother, Michael, dozens of times. DeLuca and Patricia Columbo were each sentenced to 200 to 300 years in prison, but the two are up again for parole in May — 35 years after the killings. Columbo has a preliminary parole hearing Thursday. Though Columbo has been up at least 15 times before, most recently in 2008, she has won support from the same two members of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board at her last three attempts at parole. This spring, Columbo will appear before four new board members, though she would need eight votes to win parole. One person intent on making sure that never happens is Mundelein Police Chief Raymond Rose. Not yet 30 when he became the lead investigator on the case as a member of the Elk Grove Village police force, Rose said he will fight against parole for Columbo “until one of us is dead.” “When you see people who’ve been murdered, what makes this so grisly is that it’s an entire family,” said Rose, who plans to travel downstate to Dwight Correctional Center to testify against Columbo’s parole after having done the same at DeLuca’s preliminary hearing at Logan Correctional Center last month. “When you think about that … you can’t forget,” Rose said. “It’s like we’re speaking on behalf of the family because they’re not here to talk for themselves.” Neither of the two Prisoner Review Board members who have voted in favor of Columbo’s parole — Geraldine Tyler and former state Rep. Jesse Madison — could be reached for comment. In explaining her first vote for Columbo’s freedom, in 2006, Tyler has said Columbo is “not the same woman” she was when she killed her family and seemed remorseful. DeLuca, now 72, has never received a vote in favor of parole, parole board officials said. Those “yes” votes for Columbo have re-energized Rose to keep up his fight. He said it worries him that Columbo, now 54, might be gaining sympathy because she was so young at the time of the killings and has been portrayed by advocates as a rehabilitated and well-behaved prisoner. “There are people who say, ‘Poor girl’ … (that) she was suckered in. My question is, who groomed who? Frank DeLuca didn’t groom her. She groomed him,” Rose said, calling Columbo “a very hard personality, very cold, calculating, manipulative. … It’s clear to me that this evilness continues.” Algis Baliunas, one of the prosecutors at Columbo’s trial, said that while over the years he has often questioned the purpose of extended prison sentences, in the case of Columbo, he remains adamant that parole should not be granted. Baliunas, who has been in private practice since 1978, recalled that, years ago, he was asked by Columbo’s attorney if he would support her parole petition. “After the trial, I ended up working on the defense side for a number of years, and after seeing many people who were rehabilitated, I could see how in some instances it is a waste of money to keep people in jail,” Baliunas said. “But in Patricia Columbo’s case, there was never any clear-cut motive for her decision to kill her family in such a vicious manner. … She seemed to have an inability to deal with day-to-day situations, so why take the chance?”

And thanks to the Chicago Tribune for this well-articulated editorial opposing her request for parole (3-3-11):

No parole for Columbo

No parole for ColumboPolice investigate the scene where three members of the Columbo family, of Elk Grove Village, were found stabbed to death in their home in 1976.
Every couple of years, we’re forced to revisit the horror of May 4, 1976 — the day Patricia Columbo and her lover murdered her parents and her 13-year-old brother in Elk Grove Village. Columbo’s father was shot four times and bludgeoned with a lamp. Her mother was shot once between the eyes, and her throat was slit. Her brother was shot once and stabbed repeatedly with scissors. All three were found with what looked like cigarette burns on their bodies. Columbo and Frank De Luca both got 200 to 300 years in prison. They began their sentences in September 1977. Go ahead, do the math. Then think about this: Patricia Columbo is preparing to ask the Illinois Prisoner Review Board to let her out. It will be her 17th try. We suppose we should be encouraged that the answer has been no. Or rather: no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. It’s maddening that Columbo was eligible for parole after serving only eight years, but the board wisely and repeatedly denied her request. On her last three attempts, though, two board members voted yes, cracking open the door that could lead to her release. The board must slam it shut. Columbo and De Luca weren’t eligible for the death penalty because of fortuitous timing: The state’s capital punishment law had been ruled unconstitutional, and lawmakers didn’t pass a new one until 1978. But when supporters of the death penalty talk about wanting to preserve that option for the most heinous crimes, they’re talking about cases like this one. Columbo was 19 at the time of the murders; De Luca was 39, married, with five children. Columbo’s father wasn’t happy about the relationship, and he’d made that clear by knocking out De Luca’s front teeth with the butt of a rifle, according to trial testimony. Two witnesses testified that Columbo agreed to pay them — sex now, cash later — to kill her parents. For five months, they strung her along. They met for trysts, and she provided a floor plan of the home and photos of her family, promising to pay them from her parents’ estate. Columbo and De Luca grew impatient and did the job themselves, prosecutors said. A jury agreed. We’ve had a lot to say about capital punishment lately, and we’ll say it again: Illinois’ system is irreparably broken. Weighing the desire to punish the worst of the worst against the very real risk of executing an innocent person, it’s clear the death penalty must be abolished. Gov. Pat Quinn is considering a bill that would do just that. He should sign it. But crimes like Columbo’s make that a tough decision. They call for harsh — and unwavering — punishment. Her case is among the last under the state’s old parole system, under which prisoners were sentenced to a range of time and allowed to petition for early release. But her sentence, effectively, was life in prison: Nobody expected her to do 200-plus years, only to die trying. Every year or two, though, she’s back before the board, arguing that she’s a different woman. In her 1987 bid, she admitted for the first time that she’d committed the murders. In 1991, she said she’d found “some redemption” by working in an inmate literacy program. “To try and express the regret, I wouldn’t know where to begin,” she said in 2006. Those statements were countered by witnesses like Thomas Epach, who represented the Cook County state’s attorney’s office in 1991, when the board heard Columbo’s fifth request. “We feel strongly that her sentence is just beginning,” he said, calling the murders “the hat trick of evil.” Recalling the gruesome crimes, board member John Stenson, a former Peoria police chief, argued against parole in 2006. “They weren’t only murdered, they were overkilled,” he said of the victims. But Columbo and her lawyers continue to press her case. She’s a model inmate who’s written for the prison newspaper, earned her GED, tutored other prisoners, blah blah blah. None of that comes close to justifying her release. Ever. We’re glad to hear she’s sorry. It suggests she understands why she’s in prison, and why she should stay there.

Update May 2011 – Parole was denied by an 8-2 vote by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.


Peoria teen gets 55 years for shooting at officer

Tony Harris
Laura Nightengale Peoria Journal Star reporter  Dec. 27, 2013

PEORIA — A Peoria teenager was sentenced Friday to 55 years in prison for shooting at a Peoria police officer early last year.

Tony Harris, 19, faced a sentencing range of 35 to 95 years for the attempted murder of a police officer. Harris was convicted in November of firing three times at officer David Logan, who sat in the back row of the courtroom as Harris’ sentence was handed down.

“I just don’t want to get to the point where we have people shooting at the good guys,” Circuit Judge Steve Kouri said. “You have a victim who gets up every day and goes to work to protect people, and he’s getting shot at.”

The sentencing range for a Class X felony such as attempted murder is six to 30 years, but Harris faced lengthened terms because a firearm was used in the crime and because the victim was a police officer.

According to testimony, Logan was in pursuit of another man, Auston Wood, at the time the shots were fired. Harris’ attorney, Gary Morris, argued that Wood, not Harris, fired the shots, but the jury disagreed. No one was injured.

“When you throw gas on the fire like that, we’re fortunate that neither the officer got killed or you got killed,” Kouri said.

Harris also was sentenced to 30 years for aggravated discharge of a firearm, which he will serve concurrent to the 55-year sentence.

Harris will be required to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence, meaning he must serve 46 years and 9 months before he would be eligible for release with “good time” credit.

He was 17 at the time of the crime.

Read more:

Ashanti Lusby

State high court upholds 130-year sentence for juvenile offender

  • SPRINGFIELD — Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court preserved a 130-year prison sentence for a man convicted of rape and murder, Ashanti Lusby, who was 16 years old at the time of the offense.The 6-1 decision, issued Thursday, Oct. 22, prompted criticism from advocates within the juvenile justice reform movement who are seeking to eliminate extreme prison sentences for minors.

    The majority of the state’s high court reversed a lower court ruling, and decided that Lusby’s 2002 sentencing hearing did not violate recent U.S. Supreme Court case law requiring a sentencing judge to consider a juvenile’s age and factors related to youth.

    Justice P. Scott Neville, the only Illinois Supreme Court justice who disagreed with the majority, wrote in his dissenting opinion that the Will County trial judge who sentenced Lusby did not properly consider Lusby’s age, youth-related factors or the “crucial factor” of Lusby’s potential for rehabilitation.

    Linda Olthoff, one of the attorneys who represented Lusby, said in a telephone call she was disappointed in the court’s decision.

    “There should be a presumption against sentencing juveniles to life in prison. The court should have to first determine that (the juvenile) is so beyond rehabilitation, and I think we would maintain that that didn’t really happen here,” said Olthoff, an assistant appellate defender at the Office of the State Appellate Defender.

    A spokesperson for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, which represented the state in this case, did not respond to a request for comment.

    In his case before the court, Lusby was asking for permission to file a petition challenging his 130-year sentence as unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016).

    In Miller (2012), the court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional because it qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment.

    In Montgomery (2016), the court clarified that its decision in Miller “requires a sentencer to consider a juvenile offender’s youth and attendant characteristics before determining that life without parole is a proportionate sentence,” according to the opinion.

    In 2010, Illinois raised the minimum age threshold for juveniles from 16 to 17 for misdemeanor offenses. State law still allows for 17-year-olds charged with felonies to be treated as adults.

    In Illinois, 16-year-olds can be transferred to adult court for certain crimes, including murder, rape and certain drug or gun offenses.

    Lusby’s sentence for the rape and murder of an elementary school teacher in Joliet was not a mandatory sentence. But his 130-year sentence is a de facto life sentence because it amounts to a lifetime in prison.

    Shobha L. Mahadev, a clinical professor at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, said when a court was presented with an appeal challenging a juvenile’s de facto life sentence, as it was in Lusby’s case, the court must decide whether the juvenile’s sentencing hearing was “constitutionally sufficient.”

    “And, so here we have a 130-year sentence, and the question is: Is Mr. Lusby’s 2002 sentencing hearing constitutionally sufficient?” questioned Mahadev, who works at the law school’s Children and Family Justice Center, which submitted a legal brief in support of Lusby’s argument.

    The majority of the Illinois Supreme Court agreed that the trial judge appropriately considered Lusby’s age and factors related to youth at the sentencing hearing.

    “The trial court presided over the case from beginning to end and considered (Lusby’s) youth and its attendant characteristics before concluding that his future should be spent in prison. (Lusby’s) de facto discretionary life sentence passes constitutional muster under Miller (2016),” Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote on behalf of the majority.

  • Neville, the only Black justice sitting on the Illinois Supreme Court, wrote that the trial judge “focused on the brutality of the crime and the need to protect the public, with no corresponding consideration given to (Lusby’s) youth and its attendant characteristics,” resulting in an unconstitutional de facto life sentence for Lusby.“There is no question that juvenile offenders who commit heinous murders deserve severe punishment. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that juveniles are different from adults due to a juvenile’s lack of maturity, underdeveloped sense of responsibility, vulnerability to peer pressure, and the less fixed nature of the juvenile’s character,” Neville wrote.

    The majority of the Illinois Supreme Court decided that Lusby is not entitled to a new sentencing hearing since his sentence didn’t violate the ban on cruel and unusual punishment, or the U.S. high court’s precedent in the Miller and Montgomery cases.

    Mahadev said she took issue with the decision to foreclose the possibility of a new sentencing hearing for Lusby, who is now 41-years old.

    “I think that we should be able to go back and ensure that these individuals who are now serving life without parole and other extremely long sentences for crimes that occurred in their youth, have received the comprehensive, youth-centered consideration that is now required today, and that did not happen for Mr. Lusby,” she said.

    Elizabeth Clarke, founder and president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, said she was profoundly disappointed with the outcome of the case.

  • “You really have to be simply inhumane to have a sentence that is a de facto life sentence, and it’s inconsistent with what’s been evolving in our society, in terms of what is appropriate and what is proportionate,” Clarke said.Mahadev said the Illinois General Assembly had taken steps to better address the specific needs and consideration surrounding youth in the criminal justice system.

    For example, last year the Legislature amended state law to allow certain juvenile offenders with lengthy sentences to be eligible for parole after 10 or 20 years.

    “But I do think cases like this demonstrate that there is a population that we have left behind in this consideration — people who are serving long sentences that occurred prior to some of our more recent scientific knowledge about how children grow and develop, and legal developments. I think that it is right and appropriate for the General Assembly to examine that and continue to look at this population, and see what can be done to more proportionately address the harm that may have been caused,” she said.

    “No one’s saying that we shouldn’t hold people accountable for their actions, even young people,” she added. “The question is whether or not we can do so in a comprehensive way that accounts for their youth. And there are individuals, like Mr. Lusby, who have been left behind, both by cases and by legislation. I think it is appropriate and timely to address that.”

  • Timothy Buss 
  • From our page on dangerous early release.






    Buss murdered 5-year-old Tara Huffman in 1981 when he was 13. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and paroled in 1993. In 1995 he kidnapped 10-year-old Christopher Meyer and sexually mutilated him and murdered him by stabbing him 50 times.


    Killer Sentenced To Death In Murder Of 10-Year-Old

    A twice-convicted child killer was sentenced to death Friday for the kidnapping and murder of a 10-year-old Walla Walla, Wash., boy last summer.

    Jurors deliberated for almost four hours, and asked to see photographs of the crime scene before deciding against a sentence of life without parole for 28-year-old Timothy Buss in the killing of Christopher Meyer.

    “It will not bring Chris back,” his mother, Mika Moulton, said after the verdict. “But it will give him some peace.”

    Public defender Ed Jaquays said an appeal will be filed.

    Christopher disappeared Aug. 7, 1995 while visiting his mother. His stabbed and sexually mutilated body was found in a shallow grave eight days later.

    In 1981, Buss, then 13, was convicted of killing 5-year-old Tara Sue Huffman. He served half of a 25-year sentence and was paroled in 1993.

    Christopher’s murder prompted passage of a state law requiring authorities to notify residents when someone who has sexually abused or murdered a child moves to their community.