UPDATED 5:15 p.m. Thursday
CHAMPAIGN — Authorities remain tight-lipped about the details of the death of a Champaign woman whose body was cut up after she died and dropped into Clinton Lake last week.
At a brief news conference Thursday afternoon at the Champaign police department, Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz, Champaign Deputy Chief Joe Gallo, Champaign investigations Lt. Dave Shaffer and Coroner Duane Northrup appeared together to announce that criminal charges of dismembering a human body were filed earlier in the day against six men accused of cutting up the deceased body of Ashley Gibson in a northwest Champaign home.
Shaffer said Judge Tom Difanis issued the arrest warrants for the group, who police believe were present April 17 at a house in the 1500 block of Hedge Road when the 24-year-old Champaign woman died.
Charged with the Class X felony of dismembering a human body were:
— Davion Hedrick, 26, the resident of the house in the 1500 block of Hedge Road where the alleged crime occurred.
— Donte D. Meeks, 25, last known address 1900 block of Sangamon Drive.
— Randale D. Banks, 28, last known address 400 block of Edgebrook Drive.
— Reginald Logan, 23, last known address 1300 block of North Neil Street.
— Javon Tate, 19, last known address 1300 block of North Hickory Street.
— Deundrea M. Weatherspoon, 25, last known address 400 block of Edgebrook Drive.
Police had Hedrick, Banks, Logan, and Tate in custody by the time of a mid-afternoon news conference. They were still looking for Meeks and Weatherspoon. Those in custody are expected to be arraigned Friday. All have prior criminal convictions, Rietz said.
Rietz said more charges could be added, once the final results of Miss Gibson's autopsy are known. Northrup said it could be several weeks before toxicology tests are complete.
Northrup and Rietz said preliminary autopsy results ruled out any traumatic or internal injuries, or pre-existing medical conditions in Miss Gibson.
Rietz also said it's possible that additional people could be charged given the ongoing nature of the investigation. And police welcome any additional help the public might have.
Shaffer, who has headed the search for Miss Gibson since her mother reported her missing last week, declined to comment on any role that drugs may have played in what happened at the Hedge Road house.
Authorities believe the men decided after her death to get rid of her body. Why they felt the need to cut it up has not been made public.
"We are still working to develop a motive for the dismemberment," said Shaffer. "There were various people in there throughout the night. These are the six we believe are directly responsible for her dismemberment."
Miss Gibson's remains were found Sunday morning at 10:10 a.m. in Clinton Lake in DeWitt County. Authorities had spent the better part of Friday and Saturday searching the lake before discovering her Sunday. An autopsy done Monday confirmed Miss Gibson's identity.
Miss Gibson, the mother of a 3-year-old boy, had been reported missing on April 19, by her mother, Ranae Gibson of Urbana.
Ranae Gibson told police it was unusual for her daughter not to have frequent contact with her. On Wednesday, she answered questions for reporters, suggesting she knew some of the young men responsible for her daughter's dismemberment.
Based on evidence collected at the Hedge Road house during court-authorized searches on April 19 and 20, Shaffer said police believe that the dismemberment took place there.
Police are familiar with that address.
Hedrick was living there Jan. 7, 2015, when a pit bull emerged from the house and bit now-retired Champaign County sheriff's deputy Bill Oliger on the calf, seriously injuring him. The dog was later euthanized and its owner, Hedrick's mother, prosecuted in Champaign city court on a charge of animal nuisance.
At Thursday's news conference Gallo expressed the department's sympathy to Miss Gibson's family, calling her death a tragedy for the entire community. He thanked the residents in Garden Hills for their cooperation as police canvassed the neighborhood and praised the efforts of the department's detectives and crime scene investigators in their "intense and methodical investigation."
Police carried several bags of evidence from the Hedge Road home during their searches. Shaffer didn't say what they found but said it "supports our belief that she was deceased and possibly dismembered."
Rietz also gave a nod to her first assistant, Steve Ziegler, for working closely with investigators since the case began.
The rarely used criminal charge of dismemberment of a human body has been a violation of the Illinois criminal code since 2003.
It is a Class X felony carrying a mandatory prison sentence of between six to 30 years. It is not a defense to the crime that the person died from natural, accidental or suicidal causes.
Timeline of events in the death of Ashley Gibson
Last Tuesday: Ranae Gibson reports daughter Ashley as missing. Champaign police begin search of 1536 Hedge Road.
Last Wednesday: Upon return, police find evidence to believe she was dead and had been dismembered. Information develops that her remains might be in Clinton Lake.
Last Friday: Massive search team begins scouring Clinton Lake.
Sunday: Human remains are pulled from the lake about 10:10 a.m.
Monday: Autopsy confirms the remains are Miss Gibson's.
Wednesday: "Words can't even explain the way I feel right now," Ranae Gibson says.
Thursday: Arrest warrants issued for six men for dismembering a human body.
Friday: First court appearance for four in custody.