MONTICELLO, Ill. (WCIA) — A preliminary hearing was held Wednesday for two out of three subjects that were charged with 65-year-old Michael Brown’s murder in January.
According to Illinois State Police Investigator Eric Greenlee, Mr. Brown’s wife received an alert from the home’s security system at around 3 a.m. on January 26. The security camera showed three people, who wore masks, were peering into one of the garage windows. After Mr. Brown saw the alert, he grabbed a gun and went outside to investigate. Shortly after, his wife heard several shots fired. She ran to the garage and found her husband bleeding from multiple places.
Greenlee said cell phone data, DNA and gun evidence led police to three suspects. They were 19-year-old Blayton Cota of Granite City, 17-year-old Jerome Schmidt of Springfield, and a 16-year-old of Springfield. Police said they were all charged with first-degree murder. Schmidt was charged as an adult.
A blue, surgical mask was found next to Mr. Brown’s body at the crime scene. Greenlee said the DNA inside the mask matched Cota’s.
Police said they found a 9 mm gun near Petersburg. According to them, the gun had been disassembled before it was discarded. Greenlee said the bullets from this gun matched the bullets that killed Mr. Brown. Police also traced the gun to an owner in Sangamon County who reported that it was stolen on January 25.
Cota told the police that Mr. Brown ordered him and Schmidt to their knees while not knowing there was a third person in the garage. When the 16-year-old made some noises, it distracted Mr. Brown and shifted his focus away from Cota and Schmidt. Cota said he took this opportunity to run away. Cota also said he heard gunshots prior to all three fleeing the scene.
According to Greenlee, Cota and Schmidt have pleaded not guilty at Wednesday’s hearing. A pre-trial is set for December 13. A trial is scheduled for January 3, 2022.
A motion to transfer the 16-year-old to adult court is pending, according to State’s Attorney Sarah Perry.