Metro-East News

5/24/2005: Chief names top suspects in Belleville homicides; meeting dwells on slayings

Editor’s note: This story originally ran in the Belleville News-Democrat on May 24, 2005

Suspects have been named in the double homicide last Tuesday and the March 2 triple homicide, Police Chief Terry Delaney announced at a town hall meeting Monday night.

“There is no doubt in my mind, he (LeRon O. Wilborn) is responsible,” said Delaney, in reference to the stabbing of Nicole Jacobs, 26, and Wayne Dunnavant, 28, last Tuesday. Wilborn was married to Jacobs, who had filed an order of protection against him the day before she was killed.

“The order of protection for this guy seemed to push him over the edge,” Delaney said.

Previously, Wilborn, 35, was called a “person of interest” by police.

Also Monday, Delaney said Samuel L. Johnson, 39, is the only suspect in the killings of a hairdresser and two of his customers. Previously, Johnson was called a person of interest in this case.

Johnson was indicted Friday by a St. Clair County grand jury on a charge of attempted residential burglary into Michael Cooney’s home on Dec. 9, 2003. On March 2, Cooney, 62, and sisters Dorothy E. Bone, 82, and Doris Fischer, 79, were found stabbed to death in Cooney’s home-based salon at 7813 W. Main St.

Johnson is being held on $100,000 bail.

“He is a threat to the community and he is a flight risk,” Delaney said.

The chief said the case seems to be progressing slowly.

“I’m almost embarrassed we have not been more successful on the March 2 murders. The wheels of justice move slow sometimes. I’m sure this does not make it easier for the families,” Delaney said.

In regard to the double homicide last Tuesday, U.S. marshals are identifying this as a major case, and unlimited resources have become available as a result, Delaney said.

“(St. Clair County State’s Attorney Robert) Haida has promised me a response tomorrow,” Delaney said Monday. “We will have someone charged.”

Delaney also said Wilborn was one of 40 parolees living in Belleville. “We’ve tried to monitor him and tried to police him,” Delaney said.

Delaney said Wilborn was last seen Saturday in Memphis, Tenn., where he has family. On Friday, police arrested a member of Wilborn’s family.

“The family has all been interviewed,” Delaney said. “He has someone local who helped him. We had someone over the weekend and had to release him. I have applied for criminal charges on that individual.”

More than 50 people attended the town hall meeting Monday night at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ with questions and concerns.

Delaney and Mayor Mark Eckert told residents that crime is down overall and the city of Belleville was taking a “proactive approach to crime” by monitoring sex offenders and other parolees.

“I didn’t have to bury my son,” said Larry Dunnavant, the father of victim Wayne Dunnavant. “Why didn’t they put him in jail? He was beating up on her?”

Victoria Weygandt, the daughter of Fischer, was pleased with the Police department’s efforts.

“Chief Delaney told me today he’s not going to rest until they have someone,” Weygandt said. “Police are doing an excellent job; they have make sure that our case will go through without a mistrial. That’s what we want.”

Others shared their concerns about safety during the meeting.

“Although you say it’s safe in Belleville, we all know it’s not,” said Gloria Miles, a Belleville resident.

Lifelong resident Tom Maggio also was worried about safety.

“This is not the Belleville that I grew up in,” said Maggio. “It’s different and the problem is escalating. We have a problem, and we need to face it.”