Judge to issue verdict in Joliet double-murder trial on Aug. 29
BY JON SEIDEL Staff Reporter August 12, 2014 8:26AM
Bethany McKee | Will County Sheriff's Office
Updated: September 14, 2014 6:19AM
Nicole Jones still wishes her son a good morning and good night every day.
Holding Eric Glover’s photograph outside the Will County courthouse on Tuesday, Jones said her oldest son is still with her in spirit.
But his body is “under the ground,” and his name is on a “slab of bricks.”
And after closing arguments in the murder trial of Bethany McKee, Jones said she wants “life without parole” for the people accused of killing him.
“They took the best person that we had, and they destroyed my family,” Jones said.
Will County Judge Gerald Kinney said he will announce his verdict in McKee’s trial on Aug. 29.
McKee, 20, was arrested along with Alisa Massaro, 20, Joshua Miner, 26, and Adam Landerman, 21, after Glover and Terrance Rankins, both 22, were found dead on Jan. 10, 2013, in Massaro’s home at 1121 N. Hickory St. in Joliet.
All four suspects were charged with murder, but Massaro made a deal and pleaded guilty to robbery and concealing a homicide in exchange for 10 years in prison. Miner and Landerman, who allegedly strangled the men, have yet to go on trial but are due back in court Thursday.
Prosecutors used their closing arguments Tuesday to tell Kinney that, even though McKee wasn’t there for the killings, she helped her friends plan what turned out to be a fatal robbery.
“When she’s in for a penny, she’s in for a pound,” Assistant State’s Attorney Dan Walsh said. “And when she’s in for the robbery, she’s in for the homicide too, and that makes her guilty.”
But McKee’s defense attorney, Chuck Bretz, said his client was charged with the wrong crime. There’s not enough evidence to find her guilty of murder, he said. And every piece of physical evidence corroborated what McKee told police, he argued.
He said the prosecutors’ star witness, Massaro, “personified reasonable doubt.” Her plea agreement means she must testify against her three co-defendants, but she’ll be eligible to get out of prison in less than four years.
“She played the game right into a deal,” Bretz said.
Prosecutors used McKee’s six-day trial to paint a narrative that began Jan. 9, 2013, when McKee, Massaro, Miner and Landerman ran out of booze and cigarettes — and needed cash to buy more.
Massaro testified that McKee suggested Rankins as a robbery target because he was known to carry a lot of cash. Massaro said McKee placed the phone call that lured Rankins and Glover over to Massaro’s house under the pretense that they’d be partying with the two women.
Once the men arrived, Miner allegedly gave a “signal” to Massaro, who testified she persuaded McKee to leave the upstairs bedroom where all six were drinking and smoking marijuana. McKee told police in a recorded interview that she saw Miner attack Rankins as Rankins cried: “What did I do? Why are you doing this?”
Massaro’s father testified he was trying to sleep on the couch downstairs at the time, but Massaro made an excuse when he asked about the noise from above. McKee, who had her 15-month-old daughter with her, said she left the house to drop the girl off with a friend and buy gas and cigarettes. When she returned, McKee told police Rankins and Glover were dead.
McKee told police the proceeds from the robbery amounted to $120. They used it to pay for the gas and cigarettes, she said, as well as some cocaine.
The sordid details of the hours that followed allegedly involved “surfing” and having sex on the bodies, liquor-bottle beatings of the two victims, racial epithets and a sick fantasy — never acted upon — of wearing a victim’s face as a mask. McKee didn’t participate in those activities, but she admitted that she kicked one of the bodies at Miner’s urging.
She also smoked her share of the cocaine.
McKee told police Landerman brought tools over to the house to help dispose of the bodies, including a propane torch, shears, knives, scissors and a hacksaw. The plan short-circuited when McKee called her father for help getting rid of the corpses.
William McKee called police instead.
“I asked her, ‘Were you involved?’ ” William McKee said on a recording of that phone call played during the trial. “And she said, ‘Yes.’ ”
When police arrived, they found Miner, Landerman and Massaro along with the two bodies. McKee was arrested later in Kankakee.
Bretz said McKee believed any talk of robbing and killing the two men amounted to trash-talking by Miner and wasn’t to be taken seriously. He said while there were 17 calls from Rankins’ phone to McKee’s on Jan. 9, 2013, no calls were placed from McKee’s phone to Rankins’.
McKee’s claim that she didn’t hit either body with a liquor bottle was also supported by the lack of blood on her clothing. Her only fingerprint on a tequila bottle suggested she used it to pour — not to beat anybody.
Before closing arguments, Bretz also played an hours-long recording of Massaro speaking to police after her arrest. Massaro admitted on the witness stand that most of what she said on that recording was a lie. She also acknowledged in the recording she had sex with Miner on the victims’ bodies but later denied it in court.
Bretz said his client “took no active role in any criminal activity” before or during the killings. He said she made some “horrible” decisions when it was over.
Prosecutors seized on those decisions, though, including her use of the cash stolen from the men to buy cigarettes as well as her phone call to her father, which she told police she regretted after she was arrested.
They also said she made decisions that cost Rankins and Glover their lives. Before the robbery, they said she did nothing to warn the men they were in danger. And finally, prosecutors pointed to testimony from a forensic pathologist who said it takes at least three-and-a-half minutes to strangle someone.
Assistant State’s Attorney John Connor said McKee had at least 210 seconds to try to end the attack when she saw it had begun.
“She squandered that opportunity,” he said, “for $20 in cigarettes and a few lines of cocaine.”