Danville double-murder trial Day 3 | Case puts focus on alleged use of car

 

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DANVILLE — A Danville woman testified on Thursday that Glen Torres admitted to killing a local couple, about two months after their bodies were discovered at a vacant property west of town.

J'Lynn Ayers said that on the afternoon of Aug. 1, 2015, she and her then-boyfriend, Marquis Robinson, went to a restaurant to eat, then he dropped her off at her mother's house so she could baby-sit her sister's kids. She said he was supposed to pick her up later that night, so she could get to her job at midnight, but he never showed up.

When Robinson picked her up around 8 or 9 a.m. the next day, Ayers said she noticed the two front seats of her blue Chevy Malibu, which her boyfriend also drove, had seat covers, a back window was gone and the front passenger window appeared to be broken, and there was a hole in the passenger-side door. She went on to say her car was always breaking down.

Then on Sept. 30 of that year, Ayers — who, along with Robinson, was living with his sister in Indianapolis — said her mom called her, asking questions about the car. She said Robinson had told her it had broken down on Interstate 465.

Later that day, Ayers, who was pregnant, said she confronted Robinson in front of a few others, including Torres, whom she knew as "Man Man."

"I was crying to Marquis about what was going on. They were saying my car was involved" in the Aug. 2, 2015, murders of Theodore "Teddy" Hill and Zarra Strickland, Ayers said through tears, referring to what she'd heard from her mother. "The defendant is telling me he (Robinson) was going to see his son be born. He was saying he did it, and Marquis didn't do any of it."

Ayers' testimony came on the third full day of Torres' murder trial in the shooting deaths of Mr. Hill, 29, and Ms. Strickland, 28, whose bodies were found in the early morning on Aug. 4, 2015, along the north edge of a property in the 300 block of Western Avenue. If convicted of first-degree murder, he faces 60 years to life in prison under special penalty provisions.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Monday and is expected to go at least through the middle of the week.

Earlier this week, Robinson, a self-described former "low level" drug dealer, testified his dealer, Joshua "J" Robinson put a hit on Terlandon Givens and his associate, Mr. Hill, after Givens robbed him and shot him in the leg on July 31, 2015. He also said the next day, Torres paid him $200 to drive him around in the Malibu to look for the men, and late that night and into the next morning, he was driving Torres, Mr. Hill and Ms. Strickland to Torres' car when Torres shot Mr. Hill in the back of the head, forced him at gunpoint to drive to somewhere west of Danville, where he dumped the bodies and then take him to his home in Indianapolis.

On Thursday, Torres' uncle, David Mott, acknowledged telling a grand jury that his nephew admitted his involvement to him when they were both in the county jail.

Under questioning by Assistant Illinois Attorney General Mary Claire Nicholson, one of the special prosecutors, Mott acknowledged that on Oct. 27, 2015, he was in jail on a retail theft charge, and on Nov. 12 of that year, he testified before the grand jury about what his nephew told him about the crime.

Nicholson read various statements Mott made from the transcript of the hearing, including that he and Torres shared a cell; when he asked his nephew about his involvement, he responded, "Man, me and Marquis messed up. We did it;" and he told investigators the weapon Torres used was a 40-caliber handgun.

Mott told Nicholson he recalled making those statements. But "we were talking about Marquis," he insisted.

He later told Leon Parker, Torres' attorney, he implicated his nephew after he was allegedly threatened by an investigator, who accused him of "messing up his crime scene."

Marquis Robinson testified Tuesday that after Torres tried unsuccessfully to clean the Malibu, he asked his uncle, who detailed cars, to do it — first when Robinson drove the car back to Danville on Aug. 2, 2015, and then a couple days later.

Also on Thursday

— Aron Meihls testified that on Sept. 25, 2015, Tippecanoe County sheriff's deputies brought a 2010 blue Chevy Malibu to the tow shop that he managed at the time, and told him to secure it. Before they returned to process the car, he said he got a call from a man who identified himself as "Jim," wanting to know how he could retrieve it.

Meihls said the man hung up on him as he was explaining he'd have to go through the sheriff's department. He also said his caller ID showed a number, which a Sprint official identified on Wednesday as belonging to Torres' girlfriend, Tamara Page.

— John Carnes, a fingerprint expert with the Illinois State Police crime lab said a latent print that investigators lifted from the front passenger side interior door handle of a car matched Torres'.

— Carolyn Kersting, a firearms expert with the crime lab, said she determined that two shell casings and two bullets recovered by investigators were fired from the same 40-caliber gun.

— Forensic pathologist Dr. Shiping Bao, who conducted the victims' autopsies, testified that Mr. Hill had two gunshot wounds to the left temple, one of which traveled through the victim's brain and exited his right cheek, and the other exited the right side of his neck.

Bao said Mr. Hill also had two gunshot wounds on the right side of his neck and one on the right side of his chest, and he found a bullet lodged in the skin of his lower right back. He said the insect infestation was so bad, he couldn't tell whether the other three wounds were entrance or exit wounds.

Bao also testified that Strickland was shot on the back left side of her head, and the bullet traveled through her brain and came out right front of her head.

Reporter

Noelle McGee is a Danville-based reporter at The News-Gazette. Her email is nmcgee@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@n_mcgee).