A St. Clair County jury on Wednesday found a Caseyville man not guilty of murder charges in the stabbing death of a Georgia man.
Christopher M. Mays, 39, of 7109 Laguna Drive, was acquitted of first-degree murder and felony murder.
Melvin Gregory, 38, moved from Conyers, Ga., to live with his girlfriend, Donna Mrkacek, 59. When Gregory and Mrkacek got into an argument on or about Aug. 14, 2011, investigators said Dylan Baldwin, 28, and Billie J. "Carli" Carson, 34, both of Caseyville, and Mays got involved in a physical altercation with Gregory. Mrkacek is Baldwin's aunt.
Police said the suspects beat Gregory in a vicious attack and then threw his body in a ditch near Illinois 163, where it was found by horseback riders.
Carson, Baldwin and Mays walked in on Gregory delivering a beating to Mrkacek and went to her defense, beating him and leaving him in the ditch. Testimony at trial stated that Carson returned to the ditch and stabbed Gregory and told him, "You will never touch another (expletive)." The cause of death was determined to be a stab wound to the neck.
The three burned their clothes, buried the murder weapon and split up, according to testimony. Police caught Mays five days later in Pilot Knob, Mo., and he gave a statement to the police.
Mays was represented by Thomas Q. Keefe III, Madelyn Daley and Mike Aguirre. Keefe argued that Gregory was not kidnapped -- an essential element of the crime of felony murder. Keefe also argued that Mays had no idea that Carson was going to stab Gregory and could not be held accountable for her actions.
"While nobody truly wins in a murder trial, and this case remains a tragedy, justice was served," Keefe said. "We are grateful to the jury for exonerating (Mays)."
St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic presided over the trial.
"I am grateful for the effort of the police and my prosecutors in this case. I respect this jury's service, but I respectfully disagree with this verdict," St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said.
The cases against Mrkacek and Baldwin, who are both accused of concealing a homicidal death, are pending. Carson, who is accused of first-degree murder, is still awaiting trial.
Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2570.