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URBANA — Champaign County’s top prosecutor said authorities now think three Champaign teens were involved in the shooting death of a Chicago man who was driving for a ride-hailing service in Urbana to make money so he could attend veterinary school at the University of Illinois.

Two were in court Friday for the first time to hear the first-degree murder charges filed against them. Police continue to look for the third, who is known to them.

After hearing State’s Attorney Julia Rietz lay out the facts surrounding the arrests of Jahiem S. Dyer, 17, of the 900 block of South State Street and Na’Shown Fenderson, 16, of the 2300 block of South Barberry Drive, Judge Brett Olmstead set bonds for each at $3 million.

Rietz had sought “in excess of $2 million.”

The four counts, worded slightly differently, accuse them of fatally shooting Kristian Philpotts, 29, as they tried to rob him Wednesday night inside his vehicle in Urbana.

The pair appeared before Olmstead via video hookup from the Juvenile Detention Center, where they have been held since late Wednesday.

Olmstead appointed the public defender’s office to represent both and told them to be back in court Feb 2 for a probable-cause hearing.

Rietz told Olmstead that about 6:20 p.m. Wednesday, Urbana police found the dying Mr. Philpotts on South Vine Street near Burkwood Court, just south of Florida Avenue, thinking he had been hit by a car.

In short order, they also found the Jeep he’d been driving, which had crashed about four blocks north of there.

Using information about the vehicle, they quickly learned that Mr. Philpotts had rented the Jeep from Hertz for the purpose of using it to drive for Lyft.

On him, they found a phone that showed the rideshare app and a requested ride from Fenderson’s address to a location in the 1800 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue in Urbana.

Inside the car was a single bullet casing and two phones.

As police canvassed the area, Urbana Sgt. Cortez Gardner saw two young men on a porch in the 1500 block of South Vine Street with the homeowner.

Rietz said Fenderson told the homeowner they had heard a gunshot and needed to use a phone to get a ride, then walked away from the house. Two other neighbors in that area reported similar requests from the trio.

Gardner saw Fenderson and Dyer get in a car on Florida Avenue and learned that it was registered to a person living at Fenderson’s address.

Police then watched that home and saw other people go in and out, then leave in the car in which they’d been picked up, as well as another car.

Both cars were stopped nearby. Dyer was with his mother and another relative. Fenderson was in a separate car, wearing different clothing than what Gardner had seen him in earlier in Urbana.

They were all taken to the Urbana Police Department.

The relative with Dyer told police that Dyer called his mother to come get him in Urbana, which they did. When the women picked up Dyer and Fenderson at Florida and Race, they asked them what all the police activity was about.

The relative said “there was mention of a robbery and that a ride-share driver had been shot,” Rietz said. Fenderson then jumped out of the car and ran.

Rietz said Dyer told police that they were headed to a place in Urbana for him to get a haircut, but the person canceled the appointment, so they tried to get Mr. Philpotts “to go somewhere else and there was a gunshot he heard.”

“He denied knowing who had the gun or who fired it or where it ended up,” Rietz recounted. “He said the car hit a truck and they all jumped out. He stayed with Fenderson, and the third person left on his own.”

Rietz said police found a video on Dyer’s phone that appeared to be taken after the shooting but before Dyer was picked up that showed him smoking cannabis and displaying a gun.

Despite Dyer’s claims that he did not know the third person with them, police found text messages sent after the killing between Dyer and that person.

Police also found other photos of Dyer with a different gun, she said.

Olmstead explained to Fenderson and Dyer, who are charged as adults — murder committed by juveniles warrants an automatic transfer to adult court — that they face penalties ranging from 45 to 85 years in prison if convicted.

However, due to an Illinois Supreme Court decision involving juveniles who commit murder, it is unlikely they would get more than 40 years in prison.

Several family members and supporters of both teens were in court to hear the allegations.

Reporter

Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is mschenk@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).

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