Witnesses describe events before Sandwich shooting

SYCAMORE – Eric Peterson of DeKalb told a DeKalb County jury Tuesday that he had no recollection of what happened the moment he was shot in the face.

On the first day of testimony from witnesses Tuesday, jurors in the trial of an attempted murder in Sandwich heard of an evening gone bad.

Peterson, 25, testified that he did remember parts of the evening of July 2, 2017. He went to a friend's new home in Sandwich to help him and his fiancée move in. Areas of his life before that night are hazy as well.

Prosecutors say the evening ended with Carl Russell, 45, who lived in the home next door, shooting Peterson in the face in the driveway at his friend's home in the 1100 block of Lillian Lane. Prosecutors say Russell was enraged after Peterson had confronted him over Russell making a pass at his girlfriend that evening.

Russell's trial on charges of attempted first-degree murder completed its second day on Tuesday, with witnesses describing a party where Russell was being inappropriate and asked to leave, before the confrontation between Russell and Peterson.

Russell could face life in prison if convicted.

The attack left Peterson, a father of a 2-year-old girl, paralyzed on his left side. He now uses a motorized wheelchair and has a glass eye. His memories of the period are not very clear, he said.

When First Assistant State's Attorney Stephanie Klein asked him if he lived with his girlfriend before, he responded "I think so."

Peterson testified he remembered his girlfriend, Lorena Melendez, was upset with him for not sticking up for her when someone when someone said things to her. He remembered getting up, going outside his friends' home in the 1100 block of Lilian Lane and that's it.

He didn't remember anything Russell said, he testified.

Prosecutors used witness testimony to build the narrative of an evening that escalated out of control. Leading up to the shooting, witnesses described a day that began as four friends getting together to help move into a new home. Peterson and Melendez brought their infant daughter to the home, that Douglas Schroeder and Emma Belmore had moved into three days before. Schroeder and Belmore also had a new baby.

Schroeder said they Russell that day. The home was part of a four-unit building, and his home shared a wall with Russell's. The neighbors talked. Belmore testified that Russell invited Schroeder and Peterson over to look at his new carpet. Schroeder went over and got a tour of Russell's home. At some point, Peterson had gone over, but was in the home alone.

Schroeder testified that on that tour, Russell showed him his guns, which he described as a shotgun, an AR, an AK and a sniper rifle.

As the evening wore on, Belmore and Melendez testified, that as they sat outside on the hood of Belmore's car in the driveway, Russell began to make inappropriate comments to the girls and touching them. Russell said to Melendez, who was 20 at the time, that Mexican girls were his type and he had a Mexican girlfriend.

Melendez testified that when Peterson came outside, Russell said, "You don't know the nasty things I would do to her if you weren't here."

Melendez said Peterson laughed along with Russell, and she told them both that it was inappropriate. Belmore said Melendez was "not at all happy."

Belmore testified she brought Peterson and Melendez inside to resolve their fight and told Schroeder to send Russell home. She went to check on Schroeder, who was with Russell in front of Russell's garage, and she testified she heard Russell say "I'm calling my boys right now."

At one point in the evening, Schroeder testified, he was having a cigarette in the garage when he heard a knocking on the garage and someone he assumed was Russell saying to let him in, he just wanted to talk.

Multiple witnesses testified that Schroeder called his cousin, Jared Imel, and he arrived with Imel's friend, Ian Millz. As they arrived, Schroeder and Belmore left the home through the front door, while Peterson left through the garage and went next door to Russell's garage.

About a minute after Imel and Millz arrived, multiple witnesses reported hearing what they thought was a firecracker, then looking and seeing Peterson on the ground, Russell standing over him.

Russell's defense attorneys, Brian Wright and Regina Harris, asked each how long the witnesses interviews with police were (anywhere between five and 30 minutes), whether or not Sandwich police searched their home or vehicles (witnesses said they had not) and whether or not they had handed over phone or text records to the police (they had not).

The trial will continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Near mistrial

Before court began, Wright asked Judge Philip Montgomery for a mistrial due to a computer error.

On Monday night, an email was mistakenly sent out sent out to the jurors telling them they were not needed Tuesday. Thirteen of the 14 jurors reported receiving the email, with one saying he never checked his email. By 9 a.m. Tuesday, about half of the jurors were not present in the DeKalb County Courthouse.

After all of the jurors were contacted and they arrived in the courthouse, Montgomery and attorneys for the prosecution and the defense interviewed jurors individually, asking if they had done any research or read any coverage of the trial.

One juror said she had skimmed a Daily Chronicle article online, looking to see if the case had resulted in a plea bargain and that was why she was not supposed to come in. She also said she had mentioned it to her fellow jurors.

With the jury out of the room, Wright requested a mistrial because of the perception that there was already a resolution in the trial.

Montgomery denied the motion.

Sheriff's office again warns of phone scam

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office is warning residents for the third time this year of a phone scam that includes people pretending to be from the sheriff's office seeking money.

The caller appears on caller I.D. as an actual sheriff's administration line, 815-895-7260. The caller pretends to be a deputy seeking an urgent call back or money or payment for missing jury duty, according to a news release from the sheriff's office.

If no one answers the call, the scammer will leave a call back number not associated with the sheriff's office, the release said, and will answer the number if called.

According to the release, the sheriff's office received at least three reports from residents claiming to have encountered the phone scam Friday. Investigators are following up on the reports, the release states.

The sheriff's office is reminding residents that it will never call anyone soliciting money or fees for missed jury duty or other situations, and all calls of that nature should be considered fraudulent.

If anyone has encountered the scam or situations like it, they are urged to call the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office at 815-895-2155.

The release also included tips on how to recognize a phone scam: Never give into high pressure phone tactics; insist on having information regarding solicitation of money over the phone mailed to your address for review; do not give out personal or financial information on the phone; do not agree to meet anywhere to transfer money.

People are urged to hang up the phone if a scammer is uncooperative or intimidating.

Sandwich man's trial on attempted 1st-degree murder charges begins

SYCAMORE – The trial of a Sandwich man charged with attempted murder began Monday, with jury selection and opening statements.

Carl Russell, 45, of the 1100 block of Lillian Lane, was charged in July 2017 with attempted murder after police said he admitted to shooting Eric Peterson of Plano in the face. Peterson most likely is paralyzed for life, his family has said.

Attorney Brian Wright, representing Russell at trial, said the case is not a “whodunit,” and they don’t dispute that Russell shot Peterson in the face that night. But he said he and prosecutors differ on why.

During jury selection Monday, defense attorneys Wright and Regina Harris asked potential jurors if they felt someone had the right to defend themselves. During his opening statement, Wright said that Peterson was doing just that.

“He was trying to protect himself and his home,” Wright said.

First Assistant State’s Attorney Stephanie Klein argued in her opening statement that Russell shot Peterson at the end of an evening of escalating confrontation. What began as a housewarming party at a duplex that shared a driveway and wall with Russell’s residence became tense after Russell made statements to make women at the party uncomfortable.

Both the prosecution and defense said people at the party had accused Peterson of not defending his girlfriend, Lorena Melendez, before he went out to talk to Russell.

Although they disagreed on the circumstance, both the prosecution and defense agreed that Russell ended up shooting Peterson in the right eye. The defense argued Peterson had gone to confront Russell, while prosecutors said he had gone to talk to Russell.

Wright said the difference came to “Why?”

Jury selection took most of the day.

While the defense asked about a person’s right to defend themselves in their home, the prosecution asked potential jurors their feelings about gun ownership, whether it was a right or if they owned guns themselves, and if they felt it came with responsibility.

Russell has been held in the DeKalb County Jail in lieu of a $750,000 bond. If convicted of the most serious charge, attempted first-degree murder, Russell could face life in prison.

The prosecution said it will call Peterson as its first witness Tuesday morning.

The trial is expected to continue through Wednesday this week and, because of a scheduling conflict with Judge Phillip Montgomery, will resume Monday.

Sandwich man's attempted murder trial begins

SYCAMORE – The trial of a Sandwich man charged with attempted murder began Monday, with jury selection and opening statements.

Carl Russell, 45, of the 1100 block of Lillian Lane, was charged in July 2017 with attempted murder after police said he admitted he shot Plano man Eric Peterson in the face. Peterson is most likely paralyzed for life, his family has said.

Attorney Brian Wright, representing Russell in his trial, said the case is not a "whodunit," and they don't dispute that Russell shot Peterson in the face that night. But he said he and prosecutors differ on why.

During jury selection Monday, defense attorneys Wright and Regina Harris asked potential jurors if they felt someone had the right to defend themselves. During his opening statement, Wright said that Peterson was doing just that.

"He was trying to protect himself and his home," Wright said.

First Assistant State's Attorney Stephanie Klein argued in her opening statement that Russell shot Peterson at the end of an evening of escalating confrontation. What began as a housewarming party at a duplex that shared a driveway and wall with Russell's residence became tense after Russell made statements to make women at the party uncomfortable.

Both prosecution and defense said people at the party had accused Peterson of not defending his girlfriend, Lorena Melendez, before he went out to talk to Russell.

Though they disagreed on the circumstance, both prosecution and defense agreed that Russell ended up shooting Peterson in the right eye. The defense argued Peterson had gone to confront Russell, while prosecutors said he had gone to talk to Russell.

Wright said the difference came to "Why?"

Jury selection took most of the day. While the defense asked about a person's right to defend themselves in their home, the prosecution asked potential jurors their feelings about gun ownership, whether or not it was a right or if they owned guns themselves, and if they felt it came with responsibility.

Russell has been held in DeKalb County Jail in lieu of a $750,000 bond. If convicted of the most serious charge, attempted first-degree murder, Russell could face life in prison.

The prosecution said it will call Eric Peterson as its first witness Tuesday morning. The trial is expected to take place Monday through Wednesday this week and, due to a scheduling conflict with Judge Phillip Montgomery, will resume Monday and Tuesday of next week.

Ottawa 19-year-old who asked police to shoot him at gas station is charged

OTTAWA – A La Salle County judge set bond at $20,000 Friday for a 19-year-old Ottawa man who police say tried to goad them into shooting him before shooting himself in the head with a BB gun.

Nicholas Bantista, 19, is charged with aggravated assault of a peace officer in connection with the incident. If found guilty, he could face a prison sentence of 6 to 30 years or up to a $25,000 fine.

Police said Bantista brandished a weapon at officers June 5 in Leland in hopes police would kill him.

Leland police were called about 11 p.m. to a Casey's gas station in the 100 block of North Main Street for a report of a man with a gun. Upon arrival, officers encountered Bantista, who pointed the weapon at them and threatened to kill himself, Leland Police Chief Jason Bragg has said. A brief standoff between the man and officers ensued, before police subdued him and took him into custody.

Bragg said Bantista repeatedly asked police to shoot him before using his own weapon, which turned out to be a BB gun, to shoot himself multiple times in the head.

Bantista was hospitalized at Northwestern Medicine Valley West Hospital in Sandwich with multiple head wounds. He was arrested Thursday after La Salle County prosecutors decided to charge him.

Bantista would have to post $2,000 cash to be released. He remained in the La Salle County Jail on Friday. He was appointed a public defender.

nformation sought about DeKalb burglary

Crime Stoppers is seeking information about a burglary that occurred sometime June 8 at Becky Beck’s Jewelry Store, 303 E. Hillcrest Drive in DeKalb.

During the late hours, unknown people broke into the store, according to a Crime Stoppers news release. Police are looking for anyone with information about the people involved or suspicious vehicles in the area.

Anyone with information should call DeKalb County Crime Stoppers at 815-895-3272 or email crimestoppers@dekalbcounty.org. Tipsters may remain anonymous and could be in line for a reward of up to $1,000.

DeKalb man arrested in high-speed chase near NIU campus identified

DeKALB – A man was arrested on the Northern Illinois University campus Friday after a high-speed chase during which he drove 90 mph down Annie Glidden Road before his car crashed into a creek by Larusso Lagoon, police said.

Travon S. Bibbs, 22, of the 1100 block of Varsity Boulevard, DeKalb, is facing charges of aggravated fleeing to elude police, reckless driving, speeding, disobeying a traffic control device, improper lane use, driving in the wrong lane and improper display of registration. If convicted of the most serious offense, he could face two to five years in prison.

Bibbs is being held without bond at the DeKalb County Jail, according to a news release from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office.

About 2:45 p.m., a sheriff’s deputy noticed a white sedan – driven by a man later identified as Bibbs – on the side of the road at the corner of Bethany and Annie Glidden roads with its hood up, Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Andy Sullivan said. The deputy thought the man was a stranded motorist.

“The deputy turned around to help, and the person put the hood down and drove off,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said a check of the vehicle’s license plate showed the registration was expired, and the deputy pulled over Bibbs near the intersection of Bethany and Annie Glidden.

“While they were talking with [Bibbs], during that conversation, [Bibbs] put the vehicle in drive and drove away,” Sullivan said.

The white Honda headed south on Annie Glidden, toward campus, and the deputy gave chase but broke off the pursuit once the Honda accelerated over 90 mph, still headed toward the campus area.

The speed limit on the road through campus is 30 mph.

Deputies lost sight of the vehicle south of Hillcrest Drive, the release showed.

Shortly after, pedestrians flagged down a sheriff’s deputy to tell them that there was a white car stuck in a creek behind New Residence Hall on campus, near Larusso Lagoon.

An investigation determined Bibbs exited the roadway at Annie Glidden and Crane roads and crashed into a creek, then fled on foot, the release stated.

Police found the car, and NIU police reported a man matching the description of Bibbs had been seen running into New Residence Hall. Bibbs was hiding in a nearby bush and later fled into the basement of New Hall, according to the release, after which he was found by NIU police.

Sullivan said NIU police found and arrested Bibbs about3 p.m. NIU police later handed him over to sheriff’s deputies.

No injuries were reported, Sullivan said.

UPDATE: DeKalb man identified in high-speed chase near NIU campus is being held without bond

DeKALB – A man was arrested on the Northern Illinois University campus Friday after a high-speed chase during which police reported he drove 90 mph down Annie Glidden Road before his car crashed in a creek by Larusso Lagoon, police said.

Travon S. Bibbs, 22, of the 1100 block of Varsity Boulevard, DeKalb, is facing charged of aggravated fleeing to elude, reckless driving, speeding, disobeying a traffic control device, improper lane usage, driving in the wrong lane, and improper display of registration. If convicted of the most serious offense, he could face two to five years in prison.

Bibbs is being held without bond at DeKalb County Jail, according to a news release from the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office.

About 2:45 p.m. a DeKalb County Sheriff's deputy noticed a white sedan – who's driver was later identified as Bibbs – on the side of the road at the corner of Bethany and Annie Glidden roads with its hood up, Sheriff's Chief Deputy Andy Sullivan said. The deputy thought the man was a stranded motorist.

"The deputy turned around to help, and the person put the hood down and drove off," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said a check of the vehicle's license plate showed the registration was expired, and the deputy pulled Bibbs over in the same area, near the intersection of Bethany and Annie Glidden.

"While they were talking with [Bibbs], during that conversation [Bibbs] put the vehicle in drive and drove away," Sullivan said.

The white Honda headed south on Annie Glidden, toward campus, and the deputy gave chase, but broke off the pursuit once the Honda accelerated over 90 mph, still headed toward the campus area. The speed limit on the road through campus is 30 mph.

Deputies lost site of the vehicle south of Hillcrest Drive, the release shows.

Shortly after, pedestrians flagged down a sheriff's deputy to tell them that there was a white car stuck in a creek behind New Residence Hall on campus, near Larusso Lagoon.

An investigation determined Bibbs exited the roadway at Annie Glidden and Crane Road and crashed into a creek, then fled on foot, the release states.

Police found the car, and NIU police reported a man matching the description of Bibbs had been seen running into New Hall. Bibbs was hiding in a nearby bush and later fled into the basement of New Hall, according to the release, after which he was found by NIU police.

Sullivan said NIU police found and arrested Bibbs about 3 p.m. NIU police later handed him over to sheriff's deputies.

No injuries were reported, Sullivan said.

Oswego man charged with sexual abuse of family member

SYCAMORE – An Oswego man accused of sexually abusing an underage family member was released on his signature Thursday.

Jontay T. Woods, 21, of the zero to 100 block of Beau Meade Road, was charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse. According to court documents, when questioned by Sandwich police, Woods said he had sex with a 13-year-old family member in November. He was 20 at the time.

Woods was indicted in March and picked up by Sandwich police Wednesday.

If convicted, Woods faces up to seven years in prison.

DeKalb County Assistant State’s Attorney Brooks Locke requested Woods receive a $50,000 bond with pretrial supervision and electronic home monitoring.

As a condition of his bond, Judge Phillip Montgomery required Woods to be under pretrial supervision, have no contact with the alleged victim and electronic home monitoring. Because his job at a roofing company requires him to travel from job to job, his monitoring also requires him to remain away from the alleged victim.

Police say search of woman's home uncovers ecstasy pills

SYCAMORE – A DeKalb woman who police say admitted her plans to sell the ecstasy pills they found in her apartment was released from jail Thursday on her signature.

Makyiah J. Wilkerson, 19, of the 800 block of Pappas Drive, DeKalb, was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, unlawful possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana. If convicted of the most serious charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, she could face 6 to 30 years in prison.

DeKalb Police searched Wilkerson's home at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to DeKalb County court records show. They found 15 tablets of Ecstasy and about an ounce of marijuana. According to court documents, Wilkerson said the drugs were hers and that she intended to sell the pills.

Judge Phillip Montgomery appointed a public defender to represent Wilkerson. She was released on her signature with the condition of pretrial supervision.

She is next due in court on Aug. 2.