State Briefs 10/23/09
Man convicted of murder for dropping concrete block on other man’s head
SPRINGFIELD – A 19-year-old Springfield man was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday for dropping a concrete landscape block on another man’s head during a fight more than two years ago.
Brandon J. Nelson, of Springfield, faces 20 to 60 years in prison when he is sentenced by Circuit Judge John Belz on Jan. 13. The jury took about two hours to convict Nelson of murdering Devyn Greff, 19.
According to testimony over the course of the three-day trial, Greff was drinking at a party and called his roommate, Jeremy Younker, for a ride home. When the two pulled into their apartment building about 1 a.m. on Sept. 9, 2007, Greff saw Antowin Nelson, Brandon Nelson’s uncle, riding along the street and said something to him.
Brandon Nelson, Antowin Nelson and another man, Albert Wright, later confronted Greff and Antowin Nelson punched Greff, knocking him out. According to Younker and Wright, Brandon Nelson picked a concrete landscape brick from a neighbor’s yard and either dropped it or tossed it on Greff’s head. Greff died of injuries suffered when he was hit with the block.
Law enforcement agencies suspend Taser use after manufacturer issues warning
ROCKFORD — Rockford police, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department and Loves Park police each took away the use of Taser guns from their officers Thursday until further notice.
The removal came a day after the law-enforcement agencies received a shock themselves from TASER International’s nationwide warning bulletin advising against shooting their Taser gun’s 50,000 volts of electricity into someone’s chest. The bulletin said it opens the officer, the agency and TASER International to liability if heart damage, such as sudden cardiac arrest, or death occurs.
The warning bulletin is advising officers to change their focus point to lower-center mass and preferably the back instead of aiming for center mass.
Rockford Register Star
Contractors begin tearing down flood-damaged homes
ROCKFORD — Contractors began the demolition of a dozen homes in the flood-ravaged Churchill Park neighborhood Friday.
Paid for with Neighborhood Stabilization Grant funding, the razing will eliminate just a fraction of the homes left vacant and dilapidated after severe floods in 2006 and 2007. Residents have said the vacant homes are attracting crime, vagrants and illicit activity to the area.
City officials are pursuing grants from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to buy additional vacant, flood-ravaged homes and will seek other grants to demolish them and create a Keith Creek Greenway of parkland alongside the creek. The plan not only would reduce the risk of property damage during a flood, but also would improve the neighborhood.
Rockford Register Star
Teens suspected in rash of burglaries arrested
SPRINGFIELD – Two teenagers suspected of numerous burglaries in eastern Sangamon County have been arrested, authorities said Thursday.
Arrested during a traffic stop Wednesday were Johnathan M. D’Introno, 17, of Springfield, and James D. Powell Sr., 19, of rural Christian County.
According to Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson, a rash of burglaries have been reported in the eastern part of the county, including Rochester and other locations, during the last week and a half. He said there were at least 15. Among other items, more than 15 guns were taken during the break-ins.
Sangamon County sheriff’s investigators began working with Christian County investigators and Springfield police to exchange information and identify the suspects. They developed an idea of what kind of vehicle was involved, and on Wednesday, Springfield police put out an attempt to locate a similar vehicle wanted in connection with another case.
Two deputies spotted the vehicle, a green Geo Tracker, and pulled it over about 1:40 p.m. in Springfield. Inside were D’Introno and Powell.
Springfield police said officers found a loaded .25-caliber semiautomatic gun in D’Introno’s left front pants pocket and a .22-caliber revolver in his right pocket. Nothing was found on Powell. Officers also allegedly found “a large amount of cash” during the search.
Pekin Holiday Inn Express catches fire
PEKIN – Pekin firefighters battled a blaze at the Holiday Inn Express on Friday that caused the roof of the building to collapse.
No guests were injured.
Pekin Fire Chief Kurt Nelson said the fire started in the attic of the hotel at 9:32 a.m. Nelson said an ambulance driver passing by the hotel saw smoke and flames coming from the roof and called 911.
Most hotels do not have smoke detectors in the attic, Nelson said, so the personnel and guests had no idea the building was on fire.
Pekin firefighters entered the building with a hose and found the attic fully engulfed. After attempting to extinguish the fire, firefighters were pulled out because the lightweight wooden trusses burn quickly and the roof was in danger of collapse, Nelson said. Once firefighters were outside, the blaze broke completely through the roof, which began to collapse.
Pekin Daily Times
Thief with bag over head hits three times in three days
FREEPORT – A thief wearing a bag over his head targeted a local Super Pantry store for the second time in less than a week Tuesday night, making off with an undisclosed amount of cash.
This is the third local convenience store theft committed by a man wearing a bag to hide his identity, who in each case demanded money from store clerks but did not threaten the use of force or display a weapon. No arrests have yet been made, but Freeport police describe the thief as a white male, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, with blondish hair. The perpetrator’s age is unknown.
Freeport Police Lt. Brian Kuntzelman said during each incident the perpetrator wore a bag on his head with holes cut in the bag.
The first incident occurred at approximately 3:30 a.m. on Sunday at the Mobil station at 1111 S. West Ave. in Freeport. The second theft occurred at around 10:25 p.m. on Sunday at Super Pantry, 610 W. South St. in Freeport.
Then at around 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, the perpetrator struck again at the Super Pantry on South Street. In all three cases, he walked into the stores, demanded money, and store employees gave him an undisclosed amount of cash.