Jury convicts Rantoul man of murder

URBANA — A Champaign County jury on Thursday convicted a Rantoul man for the murder of another man almost two years ago.

It was the third jury to consider the facts against Steven Monroe, 28, who was charged with the Jan. 7, 2011, fatal shooting of Marcus "Boo Man" Brown in his home east of Rantoul.

Two previous juries couldn't come to a unanimous verdict and a third jury was excused before testimony even began because a juror complained about his name being read aloud in the courtroom.

Mr. Brown was discovered dead in his apartment on Jan. 8, 2011, at the Bell Apartments complex on U.S. 136 east of Rantoul. There were no signs of a struggle and authorities initially thought he may have died of an asthma attack. An autopsy done later revealed he had been shot once in the back of the head with most of the bleeding being internal.

Champaign County sheriff's investigators also learned that Mr. Brown had been robbed of his Xbox game, a laptop computer and a small amount of cannabis.

It wasn't until late March 2011 that Monroe and another man, Joseph Emery, 28, were charged with the murder. A third man, Roy Duckworth, was charged in early April 2011. He pleaded guilty late last month to armed robbery only for his part and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Emery is scheduled to be in court in late January.

Monroe was linked to the murder through a gun used to shoot another Rantoul man within a couple of hours of Mr. Brown's shooting.

Dennis Droughns was shot in the back on Jan. 7, 2011, in a car in Rantoul but was not seriously injured. Monroe was found to have had the gun in his pocket. After Droughns' shooting, testimony revealed, the bullet from the gun that shot him was found to have matched the bullet that killed Mr. Brown.

Monroe was convicted a year ago in connection with Droughns' shooting and is serving a 30-year prison sentence for unlawful use of weapons by a felon.

Investigators found a fourth man who was with Monroe, Emery and Duckworth at the apartmemt complex who gave detectives the information they needed to get to the other three. That man, who testified in Monroe's previous trials, was never charged with Mr. Brown's murder.

Assistant State's Attorney Steve Ziegler argued that Monroe and the others went to the apartment complex intent on robbing another man of cannabis and when he wasn't home, went to Mr. Brown's apartment.

"He let those people in and one shot him in the back of his head for his laptop computer and his Xbox game and maybe a little bit of cannabis. There wasn't a struggle," Ziegler argued, saying all four were legally responsible for the death even though he never charged the fourth man.

Monroe's attorney, Jim Dedman of Urbana, argued that the state had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. He said their best evidence came from Monroe himself and that the state picked portions of what he said to fit its theory of the case.

Judge John Kennedy set sentencing for Feb. 4. Monroe faces 20 to 60 years in prison, which he will serve at the same time as the sentence he's serving for the weapons conviction.

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