Accused murderers in July Fourth shooting now in Champaign County Jail
URBANA — Two young men accused of the July Fourth murder of a Champaign woman have been returned to Champaign County to face trial.
Anthony L. Meads, 20, who listed an address in the 200 block of East Church Street, Champaign, and Treshaun Jake, 19, who listed an address on East Madison Street in Danville, were arraigned Wednesday for the first-degree murder of Desirae D. Austin, 20.
They had been in the Vermilion County Jail on unlawful use of weapons charges stemming from their Aug. 16 arrests by the Vermilion County Sheriff's Department.
Mrs. Austin was fatally shot in the chest as she stood in the intersection of Thornton Drive and Cruising Lane, the unintended victim of gunfire intended for two men.
In court Wednesday, Assistant State's Attorney Scott Bennett told Judge Richard Klaus that Meads and Jake had met up with brothers Rajon Campbell, 22, and Johnnie Campbell, 20, both of Champaign, in the middle of Cruising Lane and that the men all exchanged words.
Bennett said Jake displayed a pistol, prompting the Campbell brothers to back up then run. As they ran, Jake first fired the gun in the air then in the direction of the Campbells, according to Bennett.
Bennett said police learned that Meads had a shotgun and also took off running in the direction of the Campbells, firing the shotgun into the air.
Meads was later found with both that shotgun and another pistol that authorities determined was the one that killed Mrs. Austin. Meads claimed to have found both guns, Bennett said.
Assistant State's Attorney Lindsey Clark, who is prosecuting the pair, said no witnesses have come forward to say they actually saw Mrs. Austin get shot.
"The direction that Jake was shooting would have been in the direction of where Mrs. Austin was standing and the Campbells were running toward where she stood," Clark said. "No one ever saw her hit, but they see her lying on the ground after."
Police said earlier that the handgun believed used to kill Mrs. Austin had been stolen from a Champaign couple who were unaware it was missing until after police began investigating the killing.
Jake is represented by Urbana attorney Harvey Welch, who requested a probable-cause hearing for his client. Klaus set that for Sept. 25.
Meads, who told Assistant Public Defender Janie Miller-Jones that he was homeless, asked for time to try to hire his own attorney. Klaus told him to return to court Sept. 12.
Both men continue to be held in lieu of $1 million bond each.
Champaign police sought warrants for their arrests on Aug. 16, after having spent several weeks trying to determine who was involved in the shooting.
State's Attorney Julia Rietz charged them with felony murder, alleging that Mrs. Austin's death happened during the commission of the offense of mob action.
The Campbell brothers are known to police. Both were acquitted in a 2009 aggravated criminal sexual assault case where a 16-year-old girl was gang-raped in a detached garage of the Campbells' Champaign home. Of the five men charged, four were acquitted and one was convicted.
Rajon Campell has other misdemeanor convictions for domestic battery, resisting a peace officer and criminal trespass while Johnnie Campbell has a 2010 robbery conviction.
Jake was on probation for a 2010 attempted residential burglary at the time of his arrest for the murder. Meads has a juvenile conviction for resisting arrest. Both men also have the unresolved weapons charge in Vermilion County.
If convicted of Mrs. Austin's murder, the men face penalties ranging from 35 to 75 years in prison.