Man gets 85 years for killing boy playing video games in Lockport home
By Jon Seidel and Brian Stanley Staff Reporters September 26, 2012 12:44PM
Updated: September 27, 2012 2:58AM
Antoinette Walker took the stand in a Joliet courtroom Wednesday and boldly projected her voice as she condemned the “vicious and senseless” murder of her 14-year-old son, Deonte Lesley, who died playing video games one evening early in January 2011.
Jevon Lesley, his brother, was the target when Vernon McCormick Jr. sprayed bullets into the home in the 400 block of Fairmont Avenue in Lockport, police said. The bullets instead killed Deonte and wounded 16-year-old Jordan Edwards and 17-year-old Shadon McDonald.
“This, to me, was a premeditated and cold-blooded act,” Walker said. “Vernon McCormick had ample time and opportunity to change his mind at any time. But instead he acted as a coward hiding in the dark and shooting multiple bullets into my home.”
Walker left the courtroom after she read her statement, and before Will County Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak sentenced the 24-year-old McCormick to 85 years in prison for Deonte’s murder.
It was also before news broke that Jevon Lesley had been charged with the notorious shooting death of Joliet teen Anthony Fearn on July 9, 2011 — two days after McCormick’s arrest for Deonte’s murder.
Police say the two cases are not related. But it obviously made for a painful day for Walker, who reportedly left the courthouse early Wednesday because she needed to go to the hospital.
Sam Coffie, Walker’s brother, said the sentencing hearing “got the best of her.”
McCormick, of Lockport, told the courtroom full of two grieving families — his and Deonte’s — he is not the man Walker described to the judge.
“I’m not guilty,” said McCormick, who was convicted of murder by a Will County jury in July. “I’m innocent. I feel her pain.”
McCormick is a known gang member with a long criminal history, police have said. Several Joliet officers appeared at Wednesday’s hearing to share stories of times they encountered him and he either flashed a gun, ran or lied about his name. He conceded to the judge he’s “not a choirboy” and told the courtroom “Yeah, I got tattoos on my face.”
“I was just living my life,” McCormick said.
He also said he grew up without his father — who happened to be arrested on burglary charges Tuesday in Joliet.
McCormick’s friends and family members cried during his long statement. They at times wailed “He didn’t do it” in the courtroom and outside in the hallway. But the judge eventually interrupted him, asking “are you almost finished there, Mr. McCormick?”
Prosecutors said McCormick shot at Walker’s house Jan. 3, 2011, because he believed rival gang members who killed his friend were inside. They said he opened fire when he saw people moving and after someone opened a window for air.
Deonte Lesley was shot in the head and died at Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow and Sheriff Paul Kaupas praised McCormick’s prosecution. Glasgow called McCormick a “volatile gangbanger” and Kaupas said the sentence holds people “accountable for their violent and deadly acts.”
Meanwhile, Joliet police had charged Deonte’s brother Jevon, who goes by “Guru” on the street,” with the Fearn murder.
Jevon Lesley is serving a one-year prison term at the Jacksonville Correctional Center for unlawful use of a weapon. It’s not clear when he’ll arrive at the courthouse in Joliet, where Walker testified about his brother Wednesday.
Walker said Deonte wanted to play for the Texas Longhorns. And she said he wanted to play in the NFL. She said he told her so.
“He then said, ‘Mama, you won’t have to work so hard to take care of me, my brothers and my little sister anymore,’” Walker said. “‘Mama, I’m going to take care of you for the rest of your life.
“‘No worries mama. Everything will be all right.’”