Court: Man entitled to new trial in 1980 Rantoul murder
URBANA — A man who was sentenced to 80 years in prison for the 1980 rape, kidnapping and suffocation of a 3-year-old Rantoul girl will be getting a new trial.
This week, an Illinois appellate court ordered a new trial for Andre Davis, 50, as a result of DNA testing, which wasn't available at the time of the original trials.
One Champaign County jury convicted Davis in January 1981, and another one convicted him in June 1983 of murder in connection with the Aug. 8, 1980, death of 3-year-old Brianna Stickle.
The first conviction was overturned because of a bailiff's error during jury deliberations.
Donald Parkinson, who was an assistant state's attorney at the time, argued that statements by Davis along with evidence showed that Davis took Brianna from her yard and killed her.
The girl's body had been discovered in a house at 1112 Eastview Drive, Rantoul, following a search of the neighborhood by her family.
Brianna lived at 1110 Eastview Drive with her mother and stepfather, Rebecca and Rand Spragg.
Rand Spragg testified during the trial that he let the girl out of the house to play and last saw her sitting under a tree in the front yard.
Police arrested Davis shortly after the body was found and after an acquaintance of Davis, Donald Douroux, told officers that Davis admitted killing a "woman" at 1112 Eastview.
Douroux said he didn't believe Davis and went to 1112 Eastview, where he met the girl's mother and stepfather looking for Brianna when he arrived.
Police found the child's nude body under some bedclothes in a utility room of the home. She was taken by ambulance to the Chanute Air Force Base hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival at 8:30 that night.
Pathologist Dr. Stanley Bobowski testified the child died of lack of oxygen and said she had been subjected to sexual intercourse "just probably at the time of death."
Bobowski theorized the girl died about one minute after her air supply was blocked.
According to testimony, Sonny and Maurice Tucker, who lived at 1112 Eastview, had spent the day drinking and playing music there with Davis, a Chicago resident who had been visiting his father in Rantoul, but the two brothers left the home late that afternoon, leaving Davis by himself.
DNA testing wasn't available at the time of the crime, so in February 2004, Davis requested that DNA testing be conducted.
According to court documents, the tests indicated that Davis' DNA did not match semen and blood left on the bedding where the girl was raped and murdered.
While a trial court denied a new trial, arguing the DNA evidence would not change the result of a retrial, the Fourth District Appellate Court reversed that decision in an opinion filed on Monday and ordered Davis be given a retrial.
The appellate court decision said a new trial is warranted because the DNA evidence was discovered following the trial, the DNA evidence couldn't be discovered prior to the trial due to the technology at the time and the evidence is "material to the issue."
Davis is being represented by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University's law school.
Champaign County state's attorney Julia Rietz could not be reached for comment.
On the web: Here is the 22-page opinion from the appellate court.