Champaign man acquitted of burglary in church break-ins

Champaign man acquitted of burglary in church break-ins

URBANA — A Champaign County jury on Wednesday acquitted a Champaign man of allegations that he burglarized the same Champaign church twice within a matter of hours earlier this year.

After about 90 minutes of deliberation, the six men and six women on the jury found Derrick A. Cox, 47, whose last address was on Williamsburg Drive in Champaign, not guilty of burglary and theft for allegedly possessing stolen goods.

Both charges stemmed from his arrest Jan. 28.

Early that morning, Champaign police found Cox and another man, Melvin L. Miller, 47, of Champaign, in the 900 block of West Eureka Street, not far from where they recovered a backpack with microphones stolen from the New Hope Church of God in Christ, 911 W. Bradley Ave., C.

The church is about two blocks north of where the men were found.

Champaign police officers testified that they were first called to the church for an alarm about 10:30 p.m. Jan. 27. They discovered a computer bag that had been stolen from the church in a nearby parking lot and observed several footprints in fresh snow near a broken window to an administrative office.

About three hours later, at 1:18 a.m. Jan. 28, police were sent back to a second alarm at the same church and discovered that someone had pushed in a board that the pastor had used to cover the broken window and entered the building.

In the second break-in, two large speakers and microphones were stolen.

Assistant State's Attorney Kristin Alferink used a combination of testimony from Miller implicating Cox in the church break-in and footprint pictures to build her case against Cox.

Miller pleaded guilty in March to attempted burglary and was sentenced to six months in the county jail and 30 months of drug-court probation. In return for his plea, other charges of burglary, theft and possession of burglary tools were dismissed.

Alferink argued that since Miller's case was resolved, he had no reason to lie about Cox's participation.

Cox testified in his own defense that he had met up with Miller on Jan. 27 but never went in the church, either with Miller or alone that night.

Cox's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Matt Ham, argued that the police had "tunnel vision" and tried to "fit their evidence around a theory" that Cox was involved.

Ham argued that the boot prints that prosecutors used to link Cox to the recovered stolen items were not clearly his. Other prints near the church window that looked similar to Cox's boot soles belonged to one of the police officers who had responded to the call, Ham argued.

The prints that were distinctive, he said, came from Miller's shoes.

Alferink said even if Cox didn't go in the church, he was accountable for Miller, who did.

Judge Tom Difanis presided over the trial, which began Monday.

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