A Lawrence County jury deliberated nearly five hours Friday before convicting Tyler R. McQueen of first-degree murder for the March 25, 2012 slaying of Robert V. Westall. The ten women, two man jury began deliberating at about 3:45 Friday afternoon, returning the first-degree murder verdict at 8:40 p.m. Judge Robert Hopkins has set sentencing for July 28. McQueen, 21 faces up to life in prison. Westall, 78, was stabbed to death in his cottage on the campus of the United Methodist Village in Lawrenceville. The victim’s niece, Helen M. Westall, is awaiting trial on charges she paid McQueen $10,000 cash and a 1995 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme automobile to carry out the killing. She has been formally charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder. McQueen was represented by Fairfield attorney Matt Vaughn.
An Albion teen is accused of committing a felony while sitting in the courtroom at Albion last Tuesday. 18-year-old Randy Crews was sitting in Edwards County Circuit Court last Tuesday waiting for the judge to call his retail theft case when he allegedly swiped a woman’s purse and stole all her cash. Court was in session – and the judge was on the bench handling routine court matters at the time. The alleged victim in the case is Shirley Mewes. She was in court as an observer, investigators said. Police in the courtroom were alerted of the alleged theft and started their own investigation. The woman’s belongings were later found floating in a toilet of a bathroom just outside the courtroom. The alleged theft was captured on the courtroom security surveillance system. Randy Crews now faces a calss-3 felony charge of theft. He was arrested early this morning and is being held in the White County jail at Carmi pending a court appearance.
17-year-old Brandon K. Trost of Albion has been sentenced to 8 years in prison after entering a guilty plea Friday to a class-2 felony charge of burglary. Trost and co-defendant Cody Brown were arrested in March for burglarizing JDL Industries in Albion. Trost also entered a guilty plea to a class-4 felony charge of criminal damage to property in the same case and drew an additional one year prison sentence. Trost has consented to participate in the state’s impact incarceration program – more commonly known as corrections boot camp. After serving his prison sentence, Trost will have to serve an additional four years of probation.
The prosecution and defense have rested in the murder-for-hire trial of 21-year-old Tyler R. McQueen of Mt. Carmel. In an audio recorded interview with an Illinois State Police Detective, McQueen denied that he took a knife to the Lawrenceville home of 78-year-old Robert V. Westall on March 25 of last year. McQueen insisted he never agreed with Mr.Westall’s niece – Helen Westall – to kill the victim. Westall bled to death after being stabbed 32 times. Prosecutors allege that McQueen killed Westall in return for a payment of $10,000 cash and a 1995 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Closing arguments and jury deliberations will get underway today.
50-year-old Kenneth Ferguson of DuQuoin was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday after entering a guilty plea in White County Circuit Court to a charge of aggravated drunk driving – his fifth such offense.
44-year-old Angela Burkart of Champaign was sentenced to two years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty in White County Circuit Court to a felony charge of forgery. In addition to prison time, the judge ordered her to pay restitution, fines and court costs in the case.
Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider says she is opposed to raising the state’s interstate speed limit to 70 mph. The Illinois senate approved the measure on a vote of 41-6. It now goes to the House for further consideration.
In the wake of heavy rains the past several weeks, planting chores are at a standstill across Illinois. Officials with the USDA report about one percent of the state’s corn crop has been planted. More rain is in the forecast.
Thursday’s guest at the Fairfield Rotary Club meeting was Susan Murphy. Murphy explained to Rotarians how the city’s TIF district is used. Rotarian, Dr. Tim Taylor arranged for Thursday’s program. Pictured – Susan Murphy and Dr. Tim Taylor.