Jury convicts man in burglary, weapons case

URBANA — An Urbana man faces up to 15 years in prison for breaking into an apartment in that city and stealing a television, xBox, and other items.

A Champaign County jury deliberated about two hours Wednesday before convicting Terrell Larue, 20, whose last known address was in the 1500 block of Hunter Street, of residential burglary as well as unlawful use of weapons by a felon.

Judge Tom Difanis set sentencing for June 25.

The conviction came in spite of a refusal by the victim to testify about what happened in her apartment at 904 N. Broadway Ave., U, Dec. 12.

Judge Tom Difanis repeatedly told Denee Thomas, 24, of Champaign, that she had to answer questions put to her Tuesday by Assistant State's Attorney Lindsey Clark. When Thomas refused, Difanis held her in direct criminal contempt of court and sent her to jail.

Thomas gave no reason for her refusal. She was arraigned on the contempt petition Wednesday morning and told to be back in court May 29. If convicted, she could get up to six months in the county jail and a $500 fine. She also has a pending burglary and retail theft case, which is set for trial May 14.

It wasn't the first time witnesses have been reluctant to come forward to testify against Larue.

In December, he was to be tried for the Feb. 14, 2011, first-degree murder of Kevin Jackson, 24, of Danville.

Mr. Jackson was fatally shot at an apartment complex on Philo Road in Urbana in what police described as a drug deal that went bad. But when witnesses could not be found on the eve of trial, the state dismissed the charges.

A week later, Larue was one of five young men arrested for the 904 N. Broadway Ave. break-in. He's been in custody since then.

They were accused of forcing their way into the apartment and stealing Thomas' television, a pair of Nike shoes, an xBox and $1,300 cash. An initial call to police indicated some of the intruders were armed.

Urbana police responded about 3:15 a.m. and surrounded the apartment building in a standoff that lasted for almost seven hours. Later, in a search of another apartment in that building where the mother of Larue's child lived, police found the stolen items as well as two loaded 9 mm handguns.

Because of prior convictions, Larue is not allowed to possess a handgun.

Even though Thomas didn't testify about what happened, Clark was able to present the testimony of a juvenile co-defendant who implicated himself, Larue and the others in the break-in. His taped statement was played for the jury.

Larue declined to testify at trial but Clark played his videotaped statement to police, in which he denied involvement in the burglary.

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