Urbana man killed before testifying in felony trial; gunman sought

URBANA — An Urbana man who was supposed to testify in a Champaign County felony trial Tuesday was killed Monday night in an east Urbana apartment.

Urbana police are looking for the man who forced his way into an apartment at 1102 E. Colorado Ave. about 8:30 p.m. and fired multiple shots at Curtis L. Mosley, 29, killing him.

Urbana police Sgt. Dan Morgan said police are looking for a black man who was wearing a tan Carhartt jacket and had the lower half of his face covered.

Mr. Mosley was pronounced dead later at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.

The victim of an earlier crime, Mr. Mosley was set to testify Tuesday in the trial of Ardis Fenn, 23.

Fenn, whose last known address was in the 700 block of East Main Street, Urbana, was charged with aggravated battery with a firearm for allegedly shooting Mr. Mosley in the leg June 12 outside the Above & Beyond Detailing shop, 708 E. Main St., U. Mr. Mosley worked there.

The shooting stemmed from an apparent robbery attempt. Mr. Mosley was shot in the thigh as he turned to run from the man threatening him with a rifle. He was treated and released that day. A bullet was removed from him.

A jury had been selected Monday to hear Fenn's case after Judge Tom Difanis denied Fenn's motion to continue it another month. The trial had previously been continued several times while the state waited for the results of DNA from the gun allegedly used to threaten Mr. Mosley. And in December, Assistant State's Attorney Steve Ziegler took over the case after Duke Harris left the office to take a new job.

Just last week, Assistant Public Defender Stephanie Corum had filed a demand for a speedy trial on Fenn's behalf, citing the numerous delays in getting him to trial while the state waited for DNA results. The state responded by allowing Fenn to be released on his own recognizance on Jan. 28.

Fenn came to court Monday for jury selection on his Class X felony charge — conviction of which means an automatic prison term of between 21 and 45 years — but did not show up Tuesday for his trial, which was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.

About 9:15 a.m., Difanis called the jurors into the courtroom and told them to come back at 9 a.m. Thursday, but not to read or listen to any news reports between now and then.

Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz told The News-Gazette that the criminal code says "if a trial commences in the presence of the defendant and the defendant willfully absents himself for two successive court days, then the court shall proceed to trial."

"We are prepared to proceed," Rietz told The News- Gazette, adding that precautions have been taken with other witnesses."We are making arrangements to protect the witnesses in this case," she said, declining to provide specifics out of caution.

Although she's occasionally filed charges of intimidation or threatening a witness, Rietz said, she's never dealt with the murder of a trial witness on the eve of trial in her tenure.

"Never in my experience has it happened," said Difanis, who's been working in the courthouse more than 35 years, first as state's attorney for about 19 years before taking the bench in 1995.

Outside the presence of the jurors, Difanis recited into the record Tuesday morning that Fenn was not present and that Urbana police heard his sister Monday night talking on a cellphone saying, "Bro, don't come around. The police are looking for you."

That woman was one of 14 civilians, including Mr. Mosley, who had been listed as potential trial witnesses. The list also includes 17 Urbana police officers, three Champaign police officers and one scientist from the Illinois State Crime Lab. Ziegler had told the judge he could probably get all those witnesses questioned by today.

Difanis issued a warrant for Fenn's arrest, with a $10 million bond.

Court records indicate that Fenn has prior convictions in Champaign County for possession of a controlled substance in 2010 and obstructing justice in 2009. Prior to his Jan. 28 release, he had been in jail on $250,000 bond since June 14, when Urbana police, acting on a tip, arrested him.

Mr. Mosley had no local criminal convictions, but court records indicated he had convictions from Georgia in 2001 for hit and run and possession of a controlled substance and from 2008 for simple battery.

Court records indicate at least eight other civilian witnesses have criminal convictions. The state is required to disclose that information to the defense.

Corum told the judge she had only two potential witnesses to call on her client's behalf — both Urbana police officers.

Morgan, who is also a witness in the Fenn case, spent the night interviewing witnesses and doing follow-up investigation.

Morgan said there were other adults present when Mr. Mosley was shot. He was uncertain if Mr. Mosley lived there. When he was shot in June, he listed an address on East University Avenue in Urbana.

Gabriel Chaney, 19, who listed an address in the 200 block of Hessel Boulevard, Champaign, is also charged with aggravated battery with a firearm in the June 12 incident. He remains in jail and is due back in court Feb. 12.

Morgan said police have no information about the direction of travel of Mr. Mosley's killer.

Police ask anyone with information to call the Urbana Police Department at 384-2320 or Crimestoppers at 373-8477, or text "CCTip" and the information to 274637.

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