Prosecutor: Accused killers wanted money for alcohol and cigarettes, got $120
BY JON SEIDEL Staff Reporter August 4, 2014 12:22PM
Adam M. Landerman (clockwise, from top left), Alisa R. Massaro, Joshua F. Miner and Bethany L. McKee | Supplied photos
Updated: September 6, 2014 6:13AM
With one phone call, everything began to unravel.
It came from Bethany McKee’s father, William McKee. He called police on Jan. 10, 2013, to tell them his daughter had been “involved in a serious crime.”
She had told him about “two black males dead in the bathtub upstairs.” And at a dispatcher’s urging, he said the bodies could be found at 1121 N. Hickory Street in Joliet.
“I asked her, ‘Were you involved?’ ” William McKee said on a recording played in a Will County courtroom Monday. “And she said, ‘Yes.’ ”
William McKee closed his eyes Monday and later bent forward as a recording of that phone call was played on the first day of his daughter’s murder trial. Bethany McKee, 20, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Terrance Rankins and Eric Glover, both 22, who were robbed and strangled in January 2013.
Prosecutors told Will County Judge Gerald Kinney that their killers wanted money for alcohol and cigarettes — and the proceeds amounted to a mere $120. But Bethany McKee’s attorney, Chuck Bretz, argued that his client shouldn’t be facing a murder charge. He said there is no evidence she hurt anyone, and the prosecutors’ key evidence won’t prove her involvement.
Also charged in the case are Joshua Miner, 26, and Adam Landerman, 21, who have yet to go on trial. Alisa Massaro, who lived at the Hickory Street home where the bodies were found, already pleaded guilty to robbery and concealment of a homicidal death in exchange for 10 years in prison. She’s expected to testify against McKee, whose trial will continue Tuesday.
McKee waived her right to a jury trial, so Kinney will decide her guilt. The trial’s first day of testimony exposed well-protected details of the crime scene called “brutal” and “heinous” by Joliet’s police chief, but it did little to directly connect McKee to the crime.
Rather, prosecutors told Kinney in their opening statement that McKee needed money and knew Rankins carried a lot of cash. They said she helped concoct the scheme — along with Massaro, Miner and Landerman — to rob Rankins. And they said she helped lure him and Glover to Massaro’s home under the pretense that they’d be partying with the two women.
The aftermath was described Monday in the following testimony from the Joliet police officers who were led to Massaro’s home by William McKee’s phone call: Officers Brian Lanton, Bruce Trevillian and Michael DeVito.
When they arrived that afternoon, Lanton and Trevillian said they could tell someone was in the house. But when Lanton yelled and knocked on the door, no one answered. It wasn’t until they walked into the enclosed front porch and opened the unlocked front door that Massaro finally appeared from the back of the home.
Massaro stared blankly at Lanton and Trevillian. But ultimately, she told them they would find Miner upstairs, and Landerman in the basement.
The officers first began to walk down a “very narrow” stairway to search the basement. But Trevillian said he heard a voice from upstairs, so they turned around.
The voice kept telling them “he was upstairs in the bedroom,” Trevillian said. “For us to come in.”
But when they opened the door at the top of the stairs, they found the bodies — one in a kitchenette, and another in a bedroom.
Both were lying facedown on pieces of plastic, with plastic bags over their heads. Their hands were behind their backs, as if they had once been tied up, Trevillian said.
Next, Trevillian found Miner.
He was in a bedroom. Sitting on a couch. Smoking a cigarette.
Trevillian told Miner to stand up and show his hands so he could be handcuffed. That’s when Miner told him he’d “done the guy with the dreadlocks,” Trevillian said.
Miner admitted he killed the man in the kitchenette and told the officers Landerman killed the man in the other bedroom, Trevillian said.
DeVito arrived later and searched the concrete basement. There, behind a piece of paneling propped against a wall, he said he found Landerman. DeVito ordered him to show his hands.
At first, Landerman resisted. But when Landerman finally turned toward DeVito, he did so “with a grin on his face,” DeVito testified.
McKee was the only one of the four not in the house when police arrived. She was arrested later in Kankakee with her 1-year-old daughter in the car. Assistant State’s Attorney Tricia McKenna said McKee gave a videotaped statement, describing the robbery plan that eventually turned into a murder plot.
The prosecutor said the group came up with a signal that they would use during the robbery — one that meant it was time for McKee and Massaro to leave the room.
But McKenna said McKee still heard Rankins’ cry as the attack began:
“Why are you doing this to me?”