Violent crime in Champaign County has taken a dangerous new turn.
Monday's fatal shooting of an Urbana man scheduled to testify the next day in a felony trial represents far more than just another violent crime.
It gives every appearance of being an intolerable assault on the judicial system.
Curtis L. Mosley, 29, who was shot and killed Monday evening at an apartment building in southeast Urbana, was expected to testify Tuesday as the victim of an attempted robbery. Mosley was shot in the leg last June while he was working at Above & Beyond Detailing in Urbana. Authorities have alleged that Mosley was shot by 23-year-old Ardis Fenn, who was charged with committing an aggravated battery using a firearm. The offense carries a mandatory prison sentence ranging from 21 to 45 years.
Fenn appeared in court Monday for jury selection but did not show up Tuesday for the start of the trial, prompting authorities to issue an arrest warrant charging him with failure to appear in court. The trial proceeded in the absence of Fenn, who turned himself in to authorities on Wednesday afternoon.
So far, no one has been charged with Mosley's murder. But Urbana Police Chief Patrick Connolly said it is a "reasonable conclusion" that Mosley was killed to prevent his testimony.
This fatal shooting, of course, represents the worst-case scenario for crime victims who sometimes are too distrustful of police or too fearful of retaliation to cooperate in criminal investigations.
Law enforcement cannot function effectively without the public's cooperation, so it is imperative that authorities send a message that anyone who threatens, injures or kills a witness will receive the maximum punishment allowable by law.
This is a terrible tragedy for Mosley's friends and family members. Victimized once as an intended robbery victim, Mosley may very well have been victimized a second time because of his willingness to testify against his alleged attacker. His death must be avenged by the criminal justice system.