Prosecutor asks for hair sample of Southern Illinois woman in child murder case
Thursday, February 2, 2012
JONESBORO, Ill. -- The Union County state's attorney wants a hair sample from the Ware, Ill., woman accused of killing a child in December.
Sacha Brown, 29, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery and concealment of a homicidal death in connection with the Dec. 11 death of 4-year-old Justin Hepburn. She pleaded not guilty Jan. 11.
During a hearing Wednesday, Union County State's Attorney Tyler Edmonds formally submitted a motion to take a sample of Brown's hair and submit it to a laboratory to potentially use the test results as evidence.
Brown's lawyer, Larry Karaker, said he has yet to thoroughly read the motion and would need a week's time to decide whether he objects to it.
Judge William Thurston set another hearing for Wednesday.
Almost nothing is publicly known about the evidence against Brown. The case documents are sealed, and Karaker and Edmonds are bound by rules to not disseminate the specifics of the evidence.
"You're going to be shocked when you see some of the evidence," Karaker said after the hearing.
Some of the evidence is video and audio footage, but Edmonds and Karaker would not say what the footage depicts. During the hearing Karaker asked Thurston that the audio footage be transcribed so he can adequately question witnesses during the trial, which is set to begin March 12.
Karaker said there are up to 40 pieces of video and audio evidence, but Edmonds said not all the evidence is relevant or admissible. The two will examine the evidence to see what can be used, Edmonds said.
"I don't think it's appropriate to do a blanket transcript," Edmonds said.
Karaker said he is seeking a forensic pathologist to use as an expert witness, but is having trouble finding an available one.
"When you're on this kind of schedule, and the forensic pathologists are busy, it's difficult to find one," Karaker said.
The imminent trial date comes as part of Illinois' Speedy Trial Act of 1974, which dictates that a person in custody is entitled to a trial within 120 days of being arrested.
Karaker will file another motion to reduce Brown's bail. Her bail was reduced from $750,000 to $400,000 on Dec. 28, but Karaker had unsuccessfully pushed to have it reduced to $50,000.
"I really need her out to help me with this case," Karaker said. Every time Karaker wants to meet with Brown, he has to make a 50-mile round trip from his Anna, Ill., office to Murphysboro, Ill., where Brown is being housed, he said.
Thurston suggested the Union County Sheriff's Department transport Brown to Karaker's office any time he needs to meet with her. Karaker would have to give the department a week's notice for Brown to be transported.
Despite Thurston's suggestion and Union County Sheriff David Livesay's amenability to the idea, Karaker said he would still file a motion to reduce bail.
Brown's family is trying to raise the $40,000 it would take to get her out of jail.
"It's hard for them," Karaker said of the family's efforts to raise the money. "They're working people."