Danville man convicted of murder in 2017 shooting

Danville man convicted of murder in 2017 shooting

DANVILLE — After more than five hours of deliberation, a Vermilion County jury found Latron Cross, 25, of Danville guilty in the 2017 killing of a man convicted in his sister's murder five years ago.

Vermilion County State's Attorney Jacqueline Lacy held up a small piece of evidence for jurors to see again during the murder trial's closing arguments Thursday morning — a rubber bracelet Cross wore that had hearts and his sister's name, Latifah Cross.

"He had all the revenge in the world. All the motive in the world," said Lacy, reminding jurors that the Cross told them when he testified he wasn't aware that the man he was accused of murdering — the same man convicted of murdering his sister — had been released from prison less than a month before he was shot.

He was void of emotion and said he didn't know, yet he wore his sister's bracelet, Lacy said.

"That's not believable," she said, arguing that everything pointed to Cross, despite the fact that his grandmother gave him an alibi and the murder weapon was not found nor were shells from the two bullets that struck Ollie Williams shortly before 1 p.m. July 7, 2017, while he was riding a bicycle along a side street leading into the Holiday Hills subdivision in Danville.

As he was bleeding, rolling around in the ditch, Mr. Williams told the driver of a city bus that stopped to call 911 that he had been shot by Cross. The dying man also gave the same name to the first Danville police officer on the scene, telling him Cross was the only one in the car.

Vermilion County Public Defender Mike Mara argued during closing statements that Mr. Williams did not actually come face-to-face with his killer, because evidence showed the bullets traveled from his back to front side. Prosecutors argued the evidence showed he was shot on the side, up close and easily could see who shot him.

Mara further discounted Mr. Willliams' dying statement of who killed him, telling jurors it was not reliable because he was in shock. He pointed jurors toward testimony of a witness in the area who initially told police he thought he saw a vehicle with more than one person inside.

"Really, that's what this case comes down to for the state. They're asking you to believe his statements," Mara said.

Mara also reminded jurors that Cross and his grandmother, Naomi Cross, both testified that he didn't leave his grandmother's residence all day and loaned the car he was driving to a cousin, Albert Gardner, who returned the vehicle to him hours after the murder.

Gardner was shot and killed June 16 in a double-fatal shooting at the Untouchables Motorcycle Club, 106 Commercial St., Danville. Assistant State's Attorney Stephanie Weber said during the second half of the state's closing statement that it was convenient that the first time police were made aware of Cross' alibi — that he was at his grandmother's that day and his cousin had the car — was a month after his cousin was killed.

"This whole alibi is manufactured and transparent," Weber told jurors.

Lacy said Cross had both motive and opportunity, as he was, by his own admission, just blocks away from the murder scene in the Holiday Hills subdivision at his grandmother's residence.

Lacy emphasized to jurors that when Cross knew Danville police were looking for him after the murder, he got out of town. Cross was arrested at his girlfriend's sister's residence in a Chicago suburb.

"That's an inference of guilt," Lacy said.

Cross now faces 20 to 60 years in prison. His sentencing hearing is still to be scheduled.

The guilty verdict was announced to a packed courtroom Thursday afternoon.

Lacy said the prosecution was very pleased with the jury's time and attention.

"We are very pleased with the verdict," she said.

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