Stunned friends of slain Danville businessman aim to carry on his legacy

Stunned friends of slain Danville businessman aim to carry on his legacy

DANVILLE — As those closest to Jay Hein tried to process the news that a friend was charged with his murder, plans were underway to honor the Danville business owner the best way they knew how.

An annual event at two bars he owned is still a go for Saturday.

"In wake of the tragedy, we are still doing Barstool Golf. This is what we feel Jay C. Hein would have wanted, and this is what the family wants. Have a drink in Jay's honor! We love you, JJ! May you rest in peace!" Kaitlyn Stefaniak, one of Mr. Hein's employees and friends, wrote Thursday on Facebook.

Friends and family who gathered Thursday at Mr. Hein's JJ's 610 Tap bar didn't want to talk about what was happening across town at the Vermilion County Courthouse, where Christopher D. Condon, 19, was formally charged with first-degree murder for allegedly stabbing Mr. Hein to death.

Condon, of Danville, was also charged with aggravated arson, a Class X felony, and concealing a homicidal death, a Class 3 felony.

Condon appeared at his arraignment via video camera from jail and showed no emotion when Vermilion County Associate Judge Mark Goodwin read him the charges and possible penalties — 20 to 60 years in prison for murder, six to 30 years in prison for aggravated arson and two to five years for concealing the homicidal death.

Goodwin appointed the public defender's office to represent Condon. The judge also set his preliminary hearing for 1:30 p.m. March 6.

Mr. Hein's body was found Wednesday morning at his residence in the 3600 block of Bayview Drive, in the north Danville subdivision of Bayview Estates, which borders Lake Vermilion.

Danville firefighters were called to the two-story brick house at 9:20 a.m. after a neighbor reported seeing smoke coming from Mr. Hein's home.

At Thursday's hearing, State's Attorney Jacqueline Lacy asked Goodwin to set Condon's bond at $5 million, saying that after firefighters put out a small fire, they discovered Mr. Hein dead.

Police found video surveillance from JJ's 610 Tap that Lacy said showed Condon and Mr. Hein leaving the tavern together about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

According to statements Condon made to police, "they arrived at the residence, where an argument ensued," Lacy said. "The defendant stabbed the victim multiple times in the back and the chest and struck him with a hammer."

The prosecutor went on to say Condon allegedly started the fire in the basement to cover up the killing. He also ransacked the home to make it look like a robbery had occurred.

Lacy said Condon allegedly stole Mr. Hein's truck, which was found later on Walnut Street. Police found Condon covered in blood, Lacy said.

Assistant Public Defender Alia Horwick argued for a lower bond, noting her client had no prior convictions.

Goodwin set the $5 million bond, meaning Condon will have to post $500,000 cash to be released.

Some of Mr. Hein's family members who attended the short hearing wept as Lacy laid out the details.

Emotions ran high before the hearing, as well.

A large group, including friends and relatives of Mr. Hein and Condon, was gathered outside the courtroom when an argument broke out.

That resulted in one of Condon's relatives being removed from the courthouse and a large police presence in the courtroom during the hearing.

The 610 Tap was closed on Wednesday but reopened Thursday, along with Mr. Hein's other bar, the Big Four Tavern. Fresh flowers were laid at the base of the 610 Tap sign on North Vermilion Street in memory of Mr. Hein.

"It's a huge loss for this town," said Tina Jackowski, a good friend of Mr. Hein's. "He did a lot for the community. ... It's just unbelievable."

Jackowski said she was the first person Mr. Hein hired when he took over the Big Four on Jan. 1, 2016. Jackowski said she looked to Mr. Hein — also a Realtor who renovated houses in the community and developed the subdivision where he lived — for advice, especially when it came to finances.

"He was kind of like a second father figure. He didn't have any kids of his own, so he always said his bartenders were like his kids," she said. "This should not have happened to him."

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