Star witness in double-murder trial testifies against ‘friend’
BY JON SEIDEL Staff Reporter August 7, 2014 1:26PM
Alisa Massaro | Illinois Department of Corrections
Updated: September 9, 2014 6:23AM
Alisa Massaro rarely even looked in Bethany McKee’s direction.
Sullen and shackled, Massaro’s eyes followed the attorneys in a Will County courtroom where McKee is on trial, and she held up her end of a plea deal — testifying against the woman she called “my friend, Bethany.”
McKee and Massaro, both 20, were friends for years. They lived together in the second floor apartment of Massaro’s Hickory Street home in Joliet when police found the bodies of 22-year-olds Terrance Rankins and Eric Glover there on Jan. 10, 2013.
The two women were arrested in connection with the fatal robbery of the two men along with Joshua Miner, 26, and Adam Landerman, 21.
All four were charged with murder. But Massaro pleaded guilty in May to robbery and concealing a homicide in exchange for 10 years behind bars. She’s now eligible to get out of prison in less than four years.
But first, she had to help prosecutors try to put McKee away for life.
So Thursday, Massaro told a Will County judge it all began when the four of them — Massaro, McKee, Miner and Landerman — ran out of money for booze and cigarettes.
They brainstormed. They decided to rob someone. And McKee agreed to go along with it, Massaro said.
It was McKee who first brought up Rankins’ name, Massaro testified, and McKee who made the phone call that lured Rankins and Glover over to the house that fatal night.
Massaro saw Miner pass cash to McKee after the robbery, she said, and later she saw McKee use cash to buy cigarettes.
Her testimony is a key piece of the case Will County prosecutors have been making against McKee all week. Her trial will resume Monday, when prosecutors are expected to rest.
But Massaro said the testimony wasn’t easy to give.
“It took a lot of strength for me to be able to tell the truth,” Massaro told defense attorney Chuck Bretz.
In fact, Massaro was brought to tears during Bretz’s blistering cross-examination.
Time and again, Bretz undermined Massaro’s credibility by pointing out the many lies Massaro told police after the bodies of Rankins and Glover were found in her home. She lied “more times than I can count,” Bretz said.
But Massaro said she only lied then because she was scared and “didn’t want to remember” what happened. Since her arrest she said she’s been diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
“We’re supposed to feel sorry for you?” Bretz asked.
Bretz said Massaro was throwing McKee “under the bus.”
He pointed to jailhouse letters Massaro wrote to her family. In them, she wrote she’d rather live under a bridge than be in jail. She wrote she’s “willing to do anything” just to see her parents again. And finally, she wrote she’s “not dumb enough to be in jail for the rest of my life.”
Massaro testified she had a revelation after her arrest and would have told the truth even if she hadn’t been offered a plea deal. “And you really expect us to believe that?” Bretz asked.
Massaro said it’s true.
“I realized how important the truth is,” Massaro said. “It sets you free.”
In addition to helping prosecutors make their case against McKee, Massaro offered chilling new details about the murders of Rankins and Glover — and the aftermath.
Soon after the men arrived at her home, Massaro said she persuaded McKee to leave the room on the second floor where the group was drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and playing video games because she saw Miner signal her.
Mimicking that signal, Massaro slid the fingers of her right hand across her throat.
“It meant to get out of the room and let them do what they had to do,” Massaro explained.
That’s when Miner and Landerman allegedly teamed up to strangle and beat the two men to death.
But the women went downstairs. They took with them McKee’s 15-month-old daughter, who had also been upstairs. Massaro’s father asked about the noise from above, but Massaro made an excuse.
Then she said she went back upstairs to find the door locked.
Behind that door, she testified, she heard the voice of Miner saying: “Die, die.” Later, she said the door opened once and was slammed in her face.
Massaro said she and McKee left the house for 10 to 15 minutes, and when they returned, Miner and Landerman were still there. But she didn’t immediately see the bodies.
Soon, she said she saw them “in my old bedroom.”
“They weren’t moving,” she said, her voice breaking.
Finally, she denied the sensational allegation revealed soon after her arrest that she had sex with Miner on the corpses. McKee told police in a videotaped interview that Massaro and Miner talked about it, but Miner didn’t have it in him.
“No, I did not,” Massaro said.