URBANA — A convicted burglar who was also linked to a murder, threats on a correctional officer, bringing drugs into jail, a jail escape, and the intimidation of witnesses has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Calling it necessary to protect the public, Champaign County Judge Tom Difanis Monday sentenced Terrell Larue, 20, whose last known address was in the 1500 block of Hunter Street, Urbana, to the maximum he could for residential burglary (15 years) and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon (10 years).
"He's a violent young man," said Difanis. "He's tried to bribe a witness, tried to escape from jail and threatened officers."
The convictions stemmed from a Dec. 12 break-in by Larue and four others at an apartment at 904 N. Broadway Ave., U.
Testifying to aggravate Larue's sentence, Urbana police investigator Matt Quinley told Difanis that the defendants apparently believed that the resident of the targeted apartment was a drug dealer who would have cash and drugs.
The scheme to break in the apartment was cooked up in another apartment in the same complex where Larue's girlfriend and their 9-day-old son lived, Quinley said. After the group was arrested, it was discovered that Larue, a convicted felon, had been in possession of a gun in the presence of the infant.
The woman who was in the apartment that was burgled, Denee Thomas, 24, has been in jail since early May when she came to Larue's jury trial under subpoena but refused to testify. Difanis held her in direct criminal contempt and she's awaiting a trial on that allegation as well as unrelated criminal charges of burglary and retail theft stemming from an alleged shoplifting.
On Monday, Thomas told the judge that an affidavit she gave the state's attorney in March saying that Larue and co-defendant Eric Kirk, 25, of Urbana, had nothing to do with the break-in that was untrue.
The affidavit, and her subsequent refusal to testify at his trial, she said, resulted from her fear of retaliation.
"I was afraid if I did come to testify, something would happen," she said, adding that Larue had contacted her before trial offering her money if she would not testify. While his offer was not a direct threat, she conceded, she said she felt intimidated by it.
Quinley also testified in detail for Difanis how Larue was linked to the Feb. 14, 2011, robbery and fatal shooting of Kevin Jackson, 24, of Danville, at an apartment complex in the 2000 block of Philo Road. Although he and another man were charged with murder, the charges against Larue were dismissed in early December because two female witnesses refused to testify against him. The co-defendant, David Moore, 21, of Champaign, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of robbery and was sentenced to probation.
Also testifying in aggravation Monday were three Champaign County correctional officers, who said Larue had smuggled heroin into the jail with him when he was arrested in December; had threatened to shoot a correctional officer in April; had used a piece of steel removed from a stool in his cell to try to pry on the frame of a window in an apparent escape attempt in May; and had amassed at least 17 disciplinary infractions that caused him to be put on a higher level of monitoring.
Assistant State's Attorney Lindsey Clark argued for the 25-year sentence.
"It's clear that what Mr. Larue does best is commit crimes. He gets guns and robs people and kills people," Clark said.
Defense attorney Bruce Ratcliffe argued for a lesser sentence, saying that he was concerned about Difanis relying on acts that either weren't charged or charges that were dismissed to enhance Larue's sentence.
"The residential burglary was based on him being part of a group of men making a bad decision," Ratcliffe said.
Larue told the judge he was sorry for what happened.
"I'm only human. Everybody makes mistakes. I ain't a bad person like everyone thinks I am. I'm still young, making a lot of mistakes. I got a lot to grow and work at. I got a family and kids," he said.