Bail reduced for Southern Illinois child murder suspect

Thursday, December 29, 2011

EDITOR'S NOTE: A typographical error related to the bail amount has been fixed.

JONESBORO, Ill. -- The Ware, Ill., woman charged with killing a child asserted her innocence in court and was able to get her bail reduced Wednesday, although it remains unlikely she will be released from jail anytime soon.

Sacha Brown, 29, spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday since being charged Dec. 14 with killing 4-year-old Justin Hepburn. An autopsy revealed that Justin suffered a four-and-a-half-inch skull fracture before his Dec. 11 death, Union County State's Attorney Tyler Edmonds said.

Brown was in court to try to convince Judge William Thurston to reduce her bail from $750,000 to $50,000. Thurston ended up reducing it to $400,000.

While delivering testimony during the bail reduction hearing, Brown denied killing Justin and said that investigators tried to goad her into admitting to the killing during what Brown's attorney, Larry Karraker, described as "intensive interrogations."

"It seemed like they were trying to get me to admit to something I didn't do," Brown said. "When I asked for a lawyer, I was placed under arrest."

While under oath, Brown said she is a lifelong Union County resident, has a full-time job at a mental health facility and has never been convicted of a violent crime. Because her family, which consists of her father, a brother and two daughters, ages 12 and 8, lives in Union County, Brown said she is not at risk of fleeing.

"I'll show up at any date and time given to me," she said, noting that she has never been accused of failing to appear in court.

Brown's father, Bobby Joe Jackson, testified that he knows his daughter to be a nonviolent, mild-mannered woman.

"If she's released, she would not be a danger to anyone," he said.

Brown's bail has a 10 percent cash provision, meaning that someone can supply 10 percent of her total bail in cash and she will be released under supervision. Jackson, who works at a local heavy equipment salvage company, said he could not post the $75,000 required to get her out of jail but has the funds to post the $5,000 a $50,000 bail would require.

Reducing the bail to $400,000 means $40,000 would be required to get Brown released from jail.

If the bond was reduced, Jackson said he would visit Brown everyday.

Karraker said he needed Brown out of jail to help him put together the best possible defense. Karraker told Thurston that because of Brown's roots in Union County, her full-time job and clean criminal record, she should have her bail reduced.

"She's not an angel, but nobody said she was," said Karraker, who has known Brown and her family for at least 10 years. "She's a productive member of society with this charge hanging over her head."

Edmonds said that while she has family and an established life in the county, the motivation to flee in the wake of a major case is always there. The evidence against Brown warrants the $750,000 bail, Edmonds said.

Files containing search warrants, discovery documents and probable cause statements are sealed, and Edmonds was vague when speaking of evidence Wednesday.

In addition to speaking about Brown's murder case, Edmonds said Brown had been involved in a drug deal in 2009 that involved her and another person giving a known methamphetamine cook batteries and lighter fluid in exchange for marijuana. Charges against Brown were dropped that same year.

Edmonds also cited the fact that Brown allegedly tried to cover up the death to make it look like an accident. He said that is also a serious matter that can result in substantial prison time and that Thurston should consider the charge while mulling over a possible bail reduction.

Thurston reread probable cause statements and reviewed Brown's criminal history before rendering a decision. He said he noticed that Brown was ticketed for driving with a revoked license in 2009 and failed to appear in court. That factored in with the testimony and other items presented led Thurston to reduce Brown's bail to $400,000.

After the hearing, Jackson declined to comment.

Karraker said after the hearing that he believes his client is innocent and that there is no direct evidence against her.

"Nobody saw it and there is no admission," he said.

All the evidence against Brown is conditional, Karraker said, noting that rules bar him from speaking directly about the evidence in sealed documents.

Although the case is beginning with conditional and indirect evidence, Karraker said he believes the case will go to trial.

"There's been a rush in judgment here," Karraker said. "We'll go to trial."

Brown will be back in court for a preliminary hearing Jan. 11.

psullivan@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

Jonesboro, IL

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