URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – Monday was the first day back from spring break for Urbana High School students, and the first day without their classmate, 16-year-old Montrell Emery. Emery was shot and killed last week.
The district’s communications director Katherine Tellez said in a statement the loss of Emery is “devastating” to the school family, and “we extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends.” She also said members from the district’s crisis team and UHS support staff were available for students who needed them.
About a mile away, the 14-year-old accused of Emery’s murder appeared in court via video conference.
“I don’t have any other way to put it. It’s a loss for all of us,” Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said.
A mother sat with her head in her hands as her 14-year-old son’s charges were read out by Judge Anna Benjamin – three counts of first degree murder.
“It appears that the motive here was that the 14-year-old wanted the gun that was being carried by the 16-year-old,” Rietz said.
The family of a different Urbana teenager is grieving. Emery was shot in the back of the head Wednesday, and Rietz says it’s because the 14-year-old suspect was interested in the “somewhat unique” gun he was known to carry.
“And [the suspect] either used another gun or that gun after he got it away from him to shoot the victim, causing his death,” Rietz said.
That’s just some of the information she presented at the suspect’s detention hearing, during which Benjamin ruled he will be temporarily detained until his next court appearance. Another detail – it wouldn’t be his first offense. Rietz says the suspect is currently on probation for the attempted armed robbery of another teenager over a cell phone in October.
“Officers caught him and he had the gun on him at the time. He would have been about 13,” Rietz said.
When Urbana Police and METRO SWAT Unit officers caught him this time, they say he was at his brother’s home, where they also found a grey gun with a golden barrel wrapped in a sweatshirt or towel. Three days prior, on the morning of shooting, Rietz says security video showed a car pulling up to the scene – the Prairie Green apartment complex – shortly beforehand. Police determined two additional minors were present.
“The two others were ahead of the victim and the minor, and that they heard shots fired. Everybody except the victim, of course, ran back to the car,” Rietz said.
Rietz says police believe all four minors, including the suspect and victim, may have been friends.
“If we obtain any other information that is relevant to additional charges for this individual or for anyone else who might have been involved, we certainly would consider that,” she said.
In court, Benjamin said the suspect’s first degree murder charges are Class M felonies. If his case remains in juvenile court, he can only be held by the Department of Juvenile Justice until his 21st birthday. If tried as an adult, he faces 45 years to natural life behind bars.
Rietz says Urbana Police are still investigating whether a second gun was used, and the origin of the gun they recovered. Anyone with relevant information is encouraged to reach out.