Two brothers sentenced for brutal rape of 18-year-old girl

December 16

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced today (Thursday, December 16, 2010) that two brothers were sentenced for their roles in the brutal rape of an 18-year-old girl in March.

Laurice Green, 18, and Lenell Green, 17, both of Joliet, were sentenced by Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak. Laurice Green was sentenced to 12 years in prison; Lenell Green was sentenced to 8 years in prison. 

The maximum sentence either brother could have received was 15 years in prison. Both defendants have to serve 85 percent of their prison sentence before they will be eligible for parole. 

The victim was at the brothers’ residence in the 1300 block of North Raynor late in the evening of March 5. Two other men also were at the house with the victim.

Laurice Green took the girl into a bedroom, punched her in the eye and raped her, according to trial testimony. Laurice Green then held her while Lenell Green and another man sexually assaulted her. After the rape, they threw her out of the house without her pants or shoes and ordered the fourth subject to drive her home.

The victim escaped the vehicle in the 600 block of Center Street and was rescued by someone who lives on the block. The Good Samaritan brought her a blanket, carried her into his house and telephoned police.

Assistant State’s Attorneys Jim Long, Chris Regis and Adam Capelli prosecuted the case.

Joliet man convicted of ice cream vendor’s murder in 2007

December 13

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced today that a Joliet man has been convicted in the shooting death of an ice cream vendor three years ago on the city’s East Side.

Monta Travis, 18, was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed robbery on Monday at the conclusion of a bench trial presided over by Circuit Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak. He faces an enhanced sentence of between 45 years to life in prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 14 because the judge found he personally discharged the firearm causing the victim’s death.

Travis gunned down Manuel Villagomez, who was pushing an ice cream cart in the 300 block of Grant Avenue at about 1 p.m. on Aug. 26, 2007.

Travis rode his bicycle up to the victim, shot him three times and left him to die in the street. Travis and an accomplice, Curtis Russell Jr., 23, of Joliet, stole an undisclosed amount of cash from Villagomez before fleeing. 

Joliet police picked up Travis on the afternoon of the murder based on eyewitness reports of the shooting. The defendant confessed to the murder and robbery while being questioned by police.

Assistant State’s Attorneys Debbie Mills and Michael Fitzgerald prosecuted the case and secured the conviction.

“Manuel Villagomez was trying to make an honest living selling ice cream from a push cart when Monta Travis gunned him down in cold blood,” State’s Attorney Glasgow said. “Through his ruthless greed, this teenager demonstrated his callous disregard for the sanctity of human life. Thanks to the hard work by Joliet police and my prosecutors, it will be a minimum of 45 years before he is free to walk our streets again.”

Russell pleaded guilty to his role in the murder in 2008 and was sentenced to 20 years prison. Mills and Fitzgerald also prosecuted the case against Russell

Two found guilty in brutal beating of 52-year-old homeless man

December 10

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced today that two men were convicted of robbery and aggravated battery for the brutal beating of homeless man in Joliet in July.

Charles Campbell, 40, and Robert Hale, 45, who also are homeless, are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 10. Hale faces between three and seven years in prison. Campbell faces between six and 30 years in prison with no option for probation because of a past criminal record that includes convictions for aggravated battery, robbery, residential burglary and unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

Charles Campbell

Charles CampbellCircuit Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak found Campbell and Hale guilty Friday after hearing testimony in a bench trial.

The two defendants beat the 52-year-old victim and stole $88 from him on July 16 in downtown Joliet near the Joliet Central High School campus. Campbell and Hale began harassing the victim because he had just gotten paid from a temporary job.

The victim suffered a broken jaw in two places, a broken nose, missing teeth, cuts over both eyes and extensive bruising to his eyes and chest. When he awoke in the street from the beating the next morning, he was missing the cash and a cellular telephone.

State’s Attorney Glasgow credited Joliet Detective James Voudrie, who was the lead investigator, as well as Assistant State’s Attorneys Frank Byers and Kathryn Tinich and Victim Witness Advocate Nichole Pasteris for their handling of this difficult case.

“This brutal attack illustrates how incredibly vulnerable homeless people are when they are living on the streets in this era of widespread unemployment and foreclosures,” the state’s attorney said. “The homeless are entitled to protection and compassion from our justice system. The police, prosecutors and advocates involved in this case went beyond the call of duty to make certain that the homeless victim and other homeless witnesses were interviewed and available to testify so that justice could be served.”

Man found guilty in string of burglaries on Joliet’s East Side

December 10

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced that a jury has found a Joliet man guilty of burglarizing two houses and a car on the city’s East Side in April.

Sidney D. Jones, 22, was convicted on two counts of residential burglary and one count of burglary. The jury deliberated for an hour before returning with a guilty verdict late Thursday.

Jones faces between 4 and 74 years in prison when he is sentenced by Circuit Judge Carla Alessio Policandriotes on February 7. The defendant is eligible for an extended term because he was on parole for a residential burglary and a retail theft when he committed these crimes. He is being held without bond pending sentencing.

Jones entered a home in the 100 block of East Jefferson Street by climbing through a window around midnight on April 23, 2010. The owner, who was home at the time, confronted Jones and chased him from the house.

Jones attempted to escape by running down Jefferson Street. An employee working at Maneuvers Bar witnessed the defendant fleeing and called Joliet Police. When officers arrived they apprehended Jones, who was carrying with him proceeds from two other burglaries – one from a vehicle the other from a home – he had committed earlier that night. Stolen items in his possession included a DVD player, a digital camera and various tools.

“The citizens of Joliet have a right to feel secure inside their homes,” State’s Attorney Glasgow said. “This conviction will prevent Sidney Jones from climbing through windows and surprising unsuspecting homeowners for the foreseeable future.”

State’s Attorney Glasgow commended Assistant State’s Attorneys Chris Messina and Sondra Denmark for securing this conviction. He also thanked Joliet Police and Will County State’s Attorney’s Office Investigator Jim Stewart for conducting a thorough investigation.

Joliet handyman convicted of criminal sexual assault against neighbor

December 9

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced today that a jury has found a Joliet man guilty of sexually assaulting his 22-year-old female neighbor in November 2008.

Juan G. Quintero, 44, was convicted on one count of criminal sexual assault and one count of criminal sexual abuse at the conclusion of a three-day trial this week. The jury returned with a guilty verdict after deliberating for one hour on Thursday.

Quintero faces between 4 and15 years in prison when he is sentenced by Associate Judge Edward Burmila on Feb. 23. Under Illinois law, he cannot receive probation for this crime.

The victim, who lives on Joliet’s West Side, testified that she asked Quintero, who was her neighbor and a local handyman, for an estimate on replacing windows at a rental house her mother owns on the city’s East Side. While at the house, the defendant pinned the victim against a wall and attempted to force himself on her until she broke free and ran to her car.

The defendant managed to get into her vehicle, and the distraught and confused victim began to drive home with him in the passenger seat. While on Interstate 80 heading west, Quintero began touching the victim against her will. She testified she could not stop him while she was driving.

“Juan Quintero took advantage of his neighbor’s trust and attempted to force himself on this defenseless woman while they were alone,” said State’s Attorney Glasgow. “These aggressive and unwanted sexual advances will cost him his freedom.”

Assistant State’s Attorneys Adam McAuley and Tricia McKenna prosecuted the case and secured the conviction.

Mokena teenager pleads guilty to murdering his 4-year-old sister

December 2

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced today that the Mokena teenager who stabbed his 4-year-old sister to death in 2009 has pleaded guilty to first degree murder.

Keith T. Randulich, 19, entered a blind plea of guilty to first-degree murder for the killing of Sabrina Clement at their Mokena home. The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office will argue that the crime was brutal and heinous when prosecutors ask the judge to hand down a life sentence. Randulich is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 25, 2011 by Circuit Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak.

“This was a crime of unspeakable cruelty and horror,” said State’s Attorney Glasgow. “One cannot begin to fathom what would prompt a young man to commit such an atrocity against his little sister.”

Randulich murdered his sister on May 22, 2009. The girl suffered what was described in court today by Assistant State’s Attorney Mike Fitzgerald as “numerous and massive stab wounds to her neck.”

The defendant told Mokena police he murdered his sister to protect her from someone he believed was abusing her, according to statements presented in court today. He took the girl to the basement of his home and stabbed her to death with a steak knife while she was lying on the floor. His parents were not home at the time.

Fitzgerald is State’s Attorney Glasgow’s Felony Division Chief.  Assistant State’s Attorney Frank Byers also assisted in the prosecution of this case.

Victim Impact Statements in Gilbert Knowles case.

December 1

Victim Impact Statement of Julie Miller (Devin’s mother)

Dear your Honor,

Gilbert Knowles has single handedly ruined several families lives by his actions on September 17,2007. He has made every parents worst nightmare come true. I don’t know how any human being could hurt a child and do the things that Gilbert did to my son, Devin. It takes a monster to harbor the hate that he has in his body. To commit a crime so brutal the defendant has to have no conscience, soul, or heart. He is a danger to everyone around him. 

I still can’t think of anything that a two year old could do to anger someone to inflict the injuries that he did. I believe that he committed this murder with other children in the home, and possibly in front of one of them. To this day my daughter can not hear her sister cry without having a breakdown. She cries, screams, and even hits herself in the head while screaming “I can’t take this”. Devin was her number one. She was really happy to have a younger brother. They did everything together. She even got him to wear a dress and makeup one time. 

After Gilbert brutally beat Devin to death he placed his body next to the bed that he shared with his sister. The next morning Madilynn woke me saying that she couldn’t find her brother. I pray to God that she didn’t’t see him! She had to witness the frightening 911 call, and then she had to have the news broken to her that her brother is no longer here. It is hard for a five year old to comprehend that she will never be able to play, hold, touch or see her best-friend.

When Devin walked into a room it lit up. He was the sweetest, funniest, most wonderful son that a parent could ask for. That tragic night a part of my heart died with him. Everyday without him is a constant struggle. Because of Gilbert Knowles’ actions that night I will never get to see my son’s first day of school. I will never hear his sweet voice. I will never get to see him look at me with his innocent brown eyes. Aleena never got to know how wonderful her brother was and how much he adored her. His life was cut short by this monster’s actions. Please for the safety of the human race never let him see the light of day. 

Julie Miller (Devin’s mother)

Victim Impact Statement of Patricia Owens (Devin’s grandmother)

Honorable Judge Richard Schoenstedt,

Five years ago I wrote these words in a book I gave my grandson, “My dearest Devin, It seems like just a little while ago you raised your tiny head and smiled at me for the first time and I smiled back with tears. I loved you so much then and I love you even more now. As you grow older, not only will you be my adored grandson, but you will be the joy of my life, Love Always, Nana Owens.” Those tears of joy are now tears of sorrow. 

Three years ago my life and the lives of my family changed forever. My name is Pat Owens and I am Devin Owens’ grandmother or his “Nana” as he used to call me. There are no adequate words to describe the pain, anger, and sorrow that we have felt since Devin’s murder. This senseless, almost unbearable, act took the peace, comfort, security, hopes and dreams from our family. 

We will never understand the brutality of Devin’s death. As a defenseless twoyear old, he was undeserving of this evil act and his death has left a huge void in our family that can never be filled. It has been horrible seeing the pain my son, Devin’s father, has had to endure. I’ve seen him struggle with the depression and a grief so deep, I wondered if he would ever find joy again. I continue to see the struggle and marvel at the strength he has, just to make it through another day. He is enduring pain that no parent should ever have to bear.

Devin’s sisters, Madilynn and Aleena don’t understand why Devin was taken from them. They will never get the chance to know their brother. Will the memories of that horrific night ever awaken in Madilynn, and if so, how will it impact her life? Because of Gilbert Knowles, they have lost some of their innocence. They, along with my other grandchildren, are now painfully aware that violence and evil can come so close to them.

Our family gatherings have been greatly impacted. We continue to keep our traditions alive but we feel the void in our lives. There is an empty place where Devin once sat with his cousins. The silence where his laughter once rang out and the absence of the sound of his tiny feet running and playing. We have been robbed of all that the void is unbearably loud.

Because of the heinous act committed by Gilbert Knowles, we will never know where Devin’s life would have led him. We will never know what contributions he would have made to society, never dance with him at his wedding or hold his first born child.

Our family is now having to deal with this loss and having to deal with seeking justice for Devin. But, we are not seeking revenge. Devin can never be brought back. We will always have this void in our lives and some of us may never wake from this nightmare.

Our family feels Gilbert Knowles should be given the maximum penalty under the law. He has shown no remorse for what he has done to Devin, to our family, to his former friend, my son. We are trying to forgive but forgiveness does not excuse anything. Gilbert Knowles must be held accountable. What he did to Devin was heinous and beyond comprehension. He has caused incredible pain to so many of us and we have suffered enough because of him. A sentence less than the maximum will only add more pain in the lives of our family. We are asking this for the sake of our family and for justice for Devin.
Thank you.

Patricia Owens

Victim Impact Statement of Bryan Owens (Devin’s father)

Honorable Judge Richard Schoenstedt, 

In 2007, Gilbert Knowles showed his true colors. He has always used and manipulated people for his own self-centered reasons. In one selfish act, he destroyed my life as well as the lives of numerous people. He violently murdered my son, Devin Owens. How a man can beat a defenseless child the way he did still boggles my mind. Devin lived in fear and pain at the hands of Gilbert Knowles for the last months of his life. I wish I had known it was fear when Devin clung onto me when I dropped him off at home after our visitations. I always thought he missed me and didn’t want to leave me. I live everyday with the guilt of not protecting Devin. I wish I had known then what I know now and I could have done things differently and prevented Devin’s horrific death.

After Devin died, I fell into a deep depression. I withdrew from everyone, even my two precious daughters. I could not bear to lose someone else I loved so much, so I didn’t want to love anyone. It was difficult to function and to take care of my girls. Gilbert took my son from rne physically but also took my daughters from me emotionally.

Since Gilbert’s conviction, I have achieved some peace. As time has passed, I have started to live life again and I am not just going through the motions. Gilbert Knowles was my best friend for several years before that horrible night. I have always said I would die for my friends and family. Gilbert Knowles achieved that when he murdered Devin. A piece of me died on that day and I will never be the same again. I can hear people whisper about how I am not the same person. I am not that same smiling person.

My daughter, Aleena, was a baby when Devin was murdered. She will never know her brother. She only knows Devin through pictures and stories and continues to talk about him all the time, My daughter, Madilynn, was only five when Devin died. It was a long time before she could sleep through the night. She seemed withdrawn at times. The security of being in a safe haven was ripped away by Gilbert Knowles.

My whole family was affected. Family gatherings are not the same. The joyous fun times no longer exist. I look at my dad and see a broken man. He is not the Saine happy person. I look into his eyes and see only sadness. It is hard for me to play with my nephews who are around the same age as Devin would have been. Every time I look at them I see Devin and it still hurts. It is hard for me to be around other small children. I will not be able to watch Devin grow, hit his first homerun, teach him to drive, watch him get married and carry on my family’s name. Others have also been deeply affected. There are future friends who will never be able to meet my smiling, laid back loving boy. No one will ever be able meet his wife and children, teachers will never know how smart he could have been, coaches will never be able to see him succeed in sports, reporters, maybe some in this room, will never be able to write about his achievements.

I also had a loving relationship with the Knowles family. I considered his mother and father my second mom and dad. His brothers were my brothers. Two of his girls are my goddaughters. My relationship with his family will never be the same again if I even have one at all.

At Gilbert Knowles’ trial, he showed no emotion all. He did not show any remorse for the horrendous act he committed against my defenseless son, Devin. We will never know why this happened without Gilbert Knowles accepting what he did and ask for forgiveness. Until that day, I hope Devin’s face and his screams haunt Gilbert Knowles every time he closes his eyes. Because of all the people’s lives Gilbert has disrupted and changed forever and the vicious way he murdered Devin, I ask the Court to give Gilbert Knowles the maximum sentence allowable under the law. His freedom is the least thing that should be taken from him. It will not bring Devin back, but it will give me and my family a sense of justice so we can move one with our lives. Thank you.

Bryan Owens

Morris man found guilty of killing 2-year-old boy

August 19

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced today (Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010) that a judge has found a Morris man guilty of beating to death his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son three years ago.

Gilbert Knowles, 35, was found guilty by Circuit Judge Richard Schoenstedt on two counts of first-degree murder for the killing of Devin Owens on Sept. 17, 2007. Judge Schoenstedt presided over a bench trial during which he heard evidence and testimony in this case. The defendant faces between 20 and 60 years in prison and could be eligible for an extended term when he is sentenced on Oct. 26.

On the night of the murder, Knowles had returned to the Joliet home he shared with his girlfriend at the time after an evening of drinking and using cocaine and was left alone to watch Devin and his 5-year-old sister. The next morning, the boy’s mother found Devin’s body wedged between his bed and the wall.

The boy suffered more than 30 injuries to his head alone during the severe beating he sustained, including bruises, a fractured skull and a torn lip. Bruises on the back of his head matched patterns on a bath mat investigators seized from the house.

A forensic pathologist testified the child died within roughly two hours after Knowles was left alone in the house with the children. Detectives also located a shirt in the woods behind the Wilmington business where Knowles worked that had traces of both the defendant’s and Devin’s DNA on it. Assistant State’s Attorneys Steve Platek and Anna Rossi argued during trial that Knowles attempted to hide the shirt in the woods after committing the murder.

“Society can never tolerate the vicious murder of innocent children like Devin Owens, who have no ability to protect themselves from the senseless violence inflicted by callous deviants,” State’s Attorney Glasgow said. “Justice will be served because Devin’s voice was heard in court by Judge Schoenstedt. Gilbert Knowles will pay for his horrific crime thanks to the judge’s careful examination of the evidence and first-rate work by Joliet police detectives and my two fine prosecutors.”

Glasgow also singled out Wilmington Officer Jose Campos, whose cooperation in the investigation turned up the shirt that Knowles hid in the woods.

Joliet man gets 4-1/2 years for brutal battery of his wife

August 19

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced today (Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010) that a Joliet man has been sentenced to 4-1/2 years in prison for the brutal battery of his wife over the course of two days last year.

Erick Mercado-Hernandez, 29, of Joliet, pleaded guilty in June to one count of aggravated battery and one count of domestic battery. On July 27 and July 28 of 2009, an enraged Mercado-Hernandez repeatedly beat the victim about her entire body with a metal broom handle and a piece of wood trim.

The woman suffered extensive bruising across her body, including her head, back, legs and feet. She would not flee her attacker because she was too injured to escape with her three little children, who ranged in age from 6-months-old to 4-years-old. The children were in the home for the entire time of the abuse.

After experiencing two days of constant beating, the victim and her children were rescued after she secretly dialed 911 and left the phone off the hook while Mercado-Hernandez was in the bathroom.

Aggravated battery is a Class 3 felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Circuit Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak handed down a sentence at the very top of the range after noting the seriousness of the victim’s injuries and the fact that three little children were in the house during the two day beating. The judge also noted that a lesser sentence would diminish the seriousness of the crime.

The case against Mercado-Hernandez was handled by State’s Attorney Glasgow’s specialized Domestic Violence Prosecution Unit and his Victim Independence Program. The team combats domestic violence by joining together specially trained prosecutors, police officers and victim advocates to comprehensively address the safety needs of victims while enforcing offender accountability.

Assistant State’s Attorney Heather Meyers secured a guilty plea and prison sentence in the courtroom while Domestic Violence Victim Advocate Kathy Craven provided the victim with support services and encouragement while the case was pending.

Craven contacted the victim on the day the case was charged and remained in constant contact with her over the past year. The woman noted that had the team not reached out to her immediately and offered its continuous support, which included referrals for domestic violence counseling and the securing of an order of protection against her husband, she would not have followed through with the prosecution. Charges for violating the order of protection are still pending against the defendant.

“Domestic violence cases are the most difficult to prosecute because victims live under constant emotional, financial and physical intimidation while their cases are pending,” Glasgow said. “My Domestic Violence Prosecution Unit deserves tremendous credit for removing this woman from a violently abusive situation and empowering her to turn the tables on her abuser.”

The prosecution team and the Victim Independence Program are funded through a federal grant provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. With the funding, Glasgow has enhanced his Domestic Violence Prosecution Unit by hiring a specialized prosecutor, an investigator and a victim advocate to focus exclusively on domestic violence cases.

Three additional victim advocates were hired through the grant, one each to work with partners at Groundwork and Lamb’s Fold Center for Women and Children, both of which provide services to abused women. The third works in partnership with the Will County Courts under the direction of Chief Judge Gerald Kinney.

Police, social workers, attorneys encouraged to attend free training on parental custody, visitation issues

August 18

JOLIET – Law enforcement professionals, social workers and civil attorneys are encouraged to attend a free training seminar next week focusing on parental custody and visitation issues.

The free seminar is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Aug. 25 at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park, 201 N. Bluff St., in Joliet. The 5-1/2 hour training session is eligible for MCLE credit for attorneys and CEU credit for social workers. All attendees will receive a certificate of completion. Spaces are still available.

The seminar will provide an overview on the enforcement of custody orders as well as the criminal aspects of parental kidnapping. Time also will be devoted to a discussion on visitation interference.

There will be a number of presenters, including: Amie Simpson, executive director of Will County Legal Assistance, which is now Prairie State Legal Services; Eric Smith of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services; Cinda Lubich, Statewide Amber Alert coordinator; Sgt. Steven Lydon, assistant chief of the Illinois State Police Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center; Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Fillipitch; and a representative from the FBI.

“Child custody issues can create nightmares for police, prosecutors, civil attorneys and social workers,” said State’s Attorney James Glasgow, one of the seminar sponsors. “The impressive panel of speakers we have assembled will provide critical legal information about parental custody, including the enforcement of out-of-state orders, when a parent is allowed to take a child out of state and what constitutes ‘parental kidnapping.’”

The seminar is co-sponsored by the 12th Judicial Circuit Family Violence Coordinating Council, the Office of Will County State’s Attorney Glasgow, Social Work PRN, the Tri-River Police Training Association and the City of Joliet.

To register for this free training session, law enforcement officers should call Tri-River Police Training Association at (815) 439-6915; attorneys should call Yolanda at Will County Legal Assistance at 815-727-5123; and social service providers should call Social Work PRN at 708-383-2283.