Danville officer says blood trail from body in 2014 death led to suspect

Danville officer says blood trail from body in 2014 death led to suspect

DANVILLE — Shortly before 7 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2014, Danville police Officer Nathan Howie was called to the city's east side for a possible murder.

When the 24-year veteran cop arrived, he saw a man's body lying in a yard on the north side of the house at 502 N. Griffin St. The man was unresponsive.

Howie later followed a trail of blood from the man's body to a small apartment complex at 1227 Clarence St., a short distance directly west of where he laid.

As he followed the trail, he observed blood on a chain link fence by the complex and blood leading up and into a window of Apartment 4.

When he looked inside the window, "I could see blood all over the living room/kitchen area," said Howie, who testified to those events on the first day of Theron M. Price's murder trial on Tuesday.

Later as he interviewed residents of the complex, Howie testified, he saw a woman leaving Apartment 2.

"She returned with a Theron Price," said Howie, who identified Price in the courtroom.

"They both said they resided in Apartment 2," the officer continued, adding Price was wearing a Mervis Industries work shirt with his name on it. He said neither he nor the woman provided police with any information about the murder at the time.

Price, 42, of Danville, faces three counts of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of William Newbern III, whose body was found two days before Thanksgiving nearly four years ago.

A preliminary autopsy result showed Mr. Newbern died of multiple gunshot wounds.

A warrant for Price's arrest was issued on July 22, 2015. He's been in jail on a $1 million bond since then.

A jury of seven men, two women and a male and female alternate were selected on Monday, and the trial began on Tuesday afternoon. The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, resumes at 9 a.m. today.

'More to this picture'

The prosecutors believe the 42-year-old victim was shot the evening before based on when his cellphone activity stopped.

In her opening statement, Assistant Illinois Attorney General Haley Bookhout said she and her colleague, William Bryant — who are trying the case due to a conflict of interest with the Vermilion County state's attorney's office — plan to present evidence that Price and Mr. Newbern spent the afternoon drinking and arguing, and were still together in the victim's apartment when his girlfriend left them.

Mr. Newbern's last outgoing call and text were at 5:54 and 5:56 p.m., respectively, and the phone showed no activity after 6:05 p.m. And calls and texts that his girlfriend sent him later went unanswered.

Bookhout also said the evidence will show that Price's work jacket and the driver's side door and steering wheel of his car tested positive for gunshot residue and that blood was found on his jacket and left boot.

However, Assistant Public Defender Rana Meents — who is representing Price, along with her colleague, Aaron Brakke — told jurors that her client didn't kill "his friend, William Newbern.

"You will see there's more to this picture," Meents said. "There's a reason for every piece of evidence the state will present."

Mr. Newbern's mother, Sharon Young, and another woman wept softly as Howie four other witnesses shared their testimony.

Four others testify

The other witnesses included:

— Officer Cliff Hegg, who said he also followed the blood trail to Mr. Newbern's apartment. When he found the front door locked, he kicked it in to see if anyone was inside.

While it was empty, he said he did find "a red substance that appeared to be blood on the floor."

— Forgenia Coe, who testified that she and her children used to live on North Griffin Street.

She said shortly before 7 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2014, she opened her front door and saw a body lying in a yard across the street. She and boyfriend (Patrick Brown) went to check on him, but "we didn't feel nothing."

Coe said she went back to her house to get her phone to call police and a blanket to cover the man so that her kids wouldn't see him.

She said she hadn't heard anything unusual the night before.

— Danville firefighter Shawn Pasley said he was the initial first responder to the scene. He removed the blanket and checked for a pulse, but didn't find one.

He said the man was "cold and stiff" and he observed a puncture wound on the man's torso and a cut on his arm. He also said he found an ID in the man's back pocket belonging to William Newbern.

— Paramedic Tim Lawson testified he determined the man was deceased after discovering he wasn't breathing, had no pulse and no heartbeat.

"He had obvious rigor mortis," Lawson added.

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