Danville double-murder trial Day 2 | Judge appoints attorney for witness

Danville double-murder trial Day 2 | Judge appoints attorney for witness

DANVILLE — On the second full day of Glen Torres' murder trial, special prosecutors called the defendant's uncle to testify about detailing the car in which Torres allegedly shot to death Theodore "Teddy" Hill and Zarra Strickland about three-and-a-half years ago.

But about 15 minutes into Assistant Illinois Attorney General Mary Claire Nicholson's direct examination of David Mott, the special prosecutor asked for a sidebar.

After a few minutes, Vermilion County Circuit Court Judge Nancy Fahey called for a short recess and sent the jury back to the jury room while court personnel tried to track down an attorney with the public defender's office.

This was at 5:15 p.m., when most courthouse personnel had gone home for the day. Earlier in the day, the prosecution and defense teams and jury agreed to go until 6 p.m. Wednesday and today, so that they could dismiss early on Good Friday.

About 5:30 p.m., while the jury was still in the jury room, Fahey appointed criminal defense attorney Michael O'Brien to represent Mott temporarily, telling the witness that O'Brien was there to speak to him about the statements that he gave under oath and his testimony going forward.

Torres, 30, of Indianapolis, faces eight counts of first-degree murder in the Aug. 2, 2015, fatal shootings of Hill, 29, and his fiancee, Strickland, 28.

If convicted, the former Danville man could face 60 years to life in prison under special penalty provisions.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. today and is expected to go into next week.

Much of Wednesday's proceedings involved Leon Parker — who, along with Dan Brown, is representing Torres — cross-examining prosecutors' key witness Marquis Robinson. Robinson, a self-described "low level" drug dealer, testified Tuesday that on Aug. 1, 2015, Joshua "J" Robinson, his dealer, put a hit out on Terlandon Givens and his associate, Mr. Hill, after Givens robbed him and shot him in the leg the day before.

He also testified that late that night and into the next morning, he was driving Torres — who claimed Robinson paid to take out the two men — Mr. Hill and Ms. Strickland to Torres' car when Torres shot Mr. Hill in the back of the head; ordered him at gunpoint to drive to a location west of Danville, where he dumped the couple's bodies; then ordered him to drive him to his home on the east side of Indianapolis.

Also on Tuesday, construction worker Martin Hollis said that about 7 a.m. Aug. 4, 2015, he discovered the bodies of a man and woman near a treeline north of a house at 322 Western Ave., west of Danville, when he arrived to do some work on the property.

Car-related testimony

Mott, one of three other prosecution witnesses who testified Wednesday, said that in August 2015, he lived at 110 Pine St., Danville, and worked as a car detailer.

Under questioning by Nicholson, Mott recalled detailing a blue Chevy Malibu for Robinson on Aug. 2, 2015, saying that Robinson and his girlfriend at the time, J'Lynn Ayers, dropped it off, and Robinson paid him $50 and "a rock," which he explained was crack cocaine.

Mott said Robinson had not brought cleaning supplies, so the two of them went to Big Lots, where they got carpet shampoo, a scrub brush and air freshener. When Robinson complained of an odor in the car, Mott said he looked inside.

"It was like a funny smell. I didn't really pay no attention. At the time, I was doing drugs," he said, adding Robinson told him to clean the carpet and the seats and focus mainly on the passenger side of the vehicle.

Mott said that when he wiped the front seat, "I saw blood," but didn't question Robinson about it. He said his brother-in-law cleaned the back seat area of the car.

When Nicholson asked Mott when he cleaned the car next, Mott said a couple days later, he was called to Robinson's apartment.

"He said, 'Dave, I need you to clean between the seats real good. The stuff is still there.' I said, 'What stuff?' He said 'Don't you smell it?' The second time, I did a full detail because he said he smelled it."

Mott said that as he was cleaning, he noticed a bullet hole on the passenger side door and that he remembers Ayers trying to remove the bullet because she wanted to keep it.

He said that after he was finished, Robinson took him inside his home, gave him money and drugs — the same amount as the last time — and then showed him three or four guns."

Under further questioning, Mott acknowledged speaking to police at the Danville Public Safety Building on Oct. 27, 2015, after he was arrested for retail theft. When Nicholson asked him if he saw his nephew in jail — Torres had been arrested a few days earlier — and talked to him about the murders, Mott said no.

Nicholson started to ask Mott about testifying before the grand jury that indicted Torres, but then she asked for the sidebar, believing that Mott's testimony hadn't been truthful.

During his testimony, Robinson made several statements that contradicted Mott's, including that he didn't pay Mott for the work and that Ayers wasn't around when Mott cleaned the car the second time.

Also on Wednesday:

— During his cross-examination of Robinson, Parker questioned him thoroughly about his statements about the murders and the events leading up to them and the following days. Many questions focused on where Robinson went on Aug. 1 and 2, 2015, and when, how long it took him to drive to the various locations, what routes he took and how long he stayed.

When Assistant Illinois Attorney General Jonathan McKay asked Robinson on redirect whether he could remember specific times of events that occurred more than three years ago and whether he knew the shootings were going to happen, the witness said no.

Parker asked Robinson why he didn't call 911 or at least try to escape from Torres at various times, including when he said Torres was dragging the bodies out of the car to the treeline, washing the car and taking a shower at his home in Indianapolis and when he got back to Danville the next day.

"You didn't think to grab the AK-47 ... and run?" Parker said, referring to when Torres was moving the bodies. Mr. Hill had allegedly asked Ms. Strickland to bring the weapon when they were going to pick up Torres' car.

Robinson answered he was in shock and didn't know where he was at the time. Later, he told McKay that after Mr. Hill was shot, "I was scared. ... To be honest, I thought I was next."

Parker also asked Robinson why he delivered an AK-47 to Josh Robinson.

"He put up the money for the murders, and you wanted to give him the AK-47?" Parker asked.

"Yes," said Robinson, who also stated he met with the dealer again that day to buy more drugs.

Parker also grilled Robinson about inconsistencies in statements he gave police during multiple interviews that began a few days after the murders to the Sunday before his trial. Robinson admitted he lied to police and omitted information at times.

— FBI Special Agent Greg Catey testified he analyzed records for a cellphone upon the request of Vermilion County sheriff's investigator Sean Jones. Earlier, a Sprint records custodian testified the number belonged to Robinson.

Based on his analysis of the calls and cellular towers they used, Catey said he was able to track the phone from Danville to Indianapolis and back to Danville between 12:57 a.m. and 12:35 p.m. on Aug. 2, 2015.

Sections (2):News, Local