Jury finds Washington Park man guilty of killing, innocent of rapes

News-DemocratMay 21, 2014 

Jurors on Wednesday found a Washington Park man guilty of shooting a New Baden man in the head and hiding the body in a vacant house that was set on fire.

They decided Lortez D. Thomas was not guilty of raping two female witnesses.

"We are pleased with the verdict. Justice has been attained for the family of Eric Mollet," said Assistant State's Attorney Steve Sallerson. "I want to thank the Illinois State Police for all their hard work on this case."

Erin Conner, Thomas' attorney, said they were pleased with the outcome on the aggravated criminal sexual assault counts, but disappointed with the outcome on the murder charge.

"My client maintains his innocence," Conner said.

The body of Eric Mollet was found Nov. 16, 2008, in a burned out house in the 1800 block of North 60th Street in Washington Park.

Witnesses testified Wednesday morning that Thomas and Justin Skinner brought Mollet, Jason Cowley and two women who worked at Dolly's Showclub back to Thomas' house.

A fight ensued between Mollet, 47, of New Baden, and Thomas, Skinner and Cowley, witnesses said. The fight ended when Thomas shot Mollet in the head, Skinner and two of the female witness said. The two other men dragged the body to the vacant house at 1833 N. 60th St. -- across the street from Thomas' home -- and set it on fire.

After the murder, both women testified that Thomas forced them to perform sexual acts.

One of the victims testified that after raping the women, Thomas told her, "It was a rush I got after killing that honky."

Conner told jurors during her closing argument that the witnesses' stories were "inconsistent and illogical." She told the jury that there was no evidence to support the witnesses' testimony.

Sallerson and his co-counsel Amanda Fischer countered that the witnesses were consistent in their testimony that Thomas shot Mollet in the head.

Thomas made statements to investigators that he shot Mollet, but claimed it was in self-defense. Those statements were not allowed during the trial because a judge found he did not knowingly waive his Miranda rights.

Thomas is set for sentencing July 3.

He faces a minimum sentence of 45 years in prison.

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