A Champaign County court could soon consider whether a former Champaign man gets an opportunity to undergo new DNA testing more than nine years after he was sentenced to prison for a 2002 murder.
In an opinion published on Wednesday, the Fourth District Appellate Court reversed part of an earlier court's decision denying a motion on behalf of Ricky Patterson.
Champaign County Judge J.G. Townsend sentenced Patterson in May 2003 to 50 years in prison for the murder of Derrick Prout in June 2002 and five years for concealment of a homicidal death for trying to obliterate evidence at the murder scene and moving Mr. Prout's body.
Patterson was also sentenced to five years in prison for arson for setting fire to the home he was renting on Duncan Road in Champaign where the murder occurred. The home was owned by Alto Vineyards.
A jury convicted him in April 2003 for the murder of Mr. Prout, 31, of Indianapolis, formerly of Urbana.
Patterson's attorney had appealed to the state appellate court to allow new DNA testing.
On Wednesday, the appellate court published a decision rejecting Patterson's request to directly order DNA testing. Instead, it issued an order, called a mandate, to have further proceedings in Champaign County court to determine whether Patterson has met the requirements of the state statute that allows DNA testing.
After the mandate from the appellate court has been filed in Champaign County, further proceedings can be scheduled on Patterson's motion, according to Champaign County Assistant State's Attorney Joel Fletcher.
According to testimony in the 2003 trial, Mr. Prout came to Champaign County to sell marijuana to a man he knew only as Ricky. He phoned his wife in Indianapolis on June 17, 2002, to say that he had made contact with Ricky but that Ricky didn't have all the money for the buy and that they had to go to another place to get it.
That was the last that Mr. Prout's wife and two children ever heard from him.
Other family members of his who live in Urbana also tried in vain to track him down in the days after that call, learning in the process that the Ricky whom Mr. Prout had contact with was Patterson.
Early on June 19, 2002, Patterson's home at 4012 N. Duncan Road burned, with authorities immediately recognizing it as arson. That same day, Patterson met with members of Mr. Prout's family in Urbana and admitted to them he had bought cannabis from Mr. Prout but said they went their separate ways after the transaction.
On June 22, 2002, Mr. Prout's body was found in a remote area of Lake County in the trunk of his car, which had been burned.
Police investigators found Patterson in St. Louis the same day. He was questioned regarding the disappearance of Mr. Prout but not arrested for his murder until Sept. 10, 2002.
Prosecutors built a largely circumstantial case against Patterson, the strongest evidence being the presence of Mr. Prout's blood on the carpet at Patterson's home. Cleaning fluids were also found on the carpet.
Prosecutors also pieced together a trail of cellphone records that showed Patterson to be in Champaign County at a time when he claimed to be in the Chicago area. And Mr. Prout was found wrapped in a blanket that was the same as one that had been in Patterson's home.
A pathologist determined he had been stabbed several times in the head and neck and shot twice after his death.