URBANA — A Champaign County prosecutor Monday dismissed murder charges against an Urbana teen after witnesses could not be found to testify against him at trial.
Terrell Larue, 19, whose last known address was in the 1200 block of Philo Road, was released from the county jail about noon, where he had been since his arrest Aug. 25.
Larue had been charged with the Feb. 14 first-degree murder of Kevin A. Jackson, 24, of Danville.
He was fatally shot in the hallway of an apartment complex in the 2400 block of Philo Road in what Urbana police Investigator Matt Quinley described as a drug deal gone bad.
On Monday, as the case was set to go to trial, Judge Heidi Ladd refused to accept a negotiated plea agreement offered by Assistant State's Attorney Dan Clifton that would have involved Larue pleading guilty to aggravated robbery for probation.
She called the proffered plea agreement an attempt by Clifton to avoid trial. Last week, Clifton admitted in a document filed with the court that he had violated the rules of discovery by giving police reports about the investigation to defense attorney Jamie Propps late.
When Ladd refused to accept the plea agreement, as had Judge Harry Clem on Friday when Ladd was out of the office, she then set the case for trial Monday afternoon before Judge Tom Difanis. (Ladd had another felony jury trial set to begin Monday.) Clifton then dismissed the charge, referring questions to State's Attorney Julia Rietz.
"You can't force people to cooperate when they don't want to cooperate," Rietz said. "The reason the case was dismissed is because witnesses actively avoided service (of the subpoenas to come to court to testify)," she said.
Asked if she would refile the charge, Rietz said: "There is no statute of limitations on murder. If we can prove the case, we will refile."
Rietz said Clifton, her office investigator Larry Adelsberger and Urbana police had spent the last few days looking for the two young women who were expected to testify that they had been in a car with Larue before he approached the apartment, then heard shots before he came out.
"There are no eyewitnesses (to the shooting) and no physical evidence," said Rietz, conceding the case would have been difficult to prove even with the witnesses.
"I understand people are afraid, but without witnesses we can't try cases," she said.
Meantime, co-defendant David L. Moore, 20, whose last known address was in the 1600 block of Hedge Road, Champaign, remains jailed. He was arrested in late July and is scheduled to be back in court next week.