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Search warrant reveals Judge Duebbert texted suspect hours before murder

New St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert sworn in

Ron Duebbert was sworn in on Dec. 5 as a St. Clair County Circuit Judge. Duebbert, a Republican, defeated former Chief Judge John Baricevic, a Democrat, in the Nov. 8 election.
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Ron Duebbert was sworn in on Dec. 5 as a St. Clair County Circuit Judge. Duebbert, a Republican, defeated former Chief Judge John Baricevic, a Democrat, in the Nov. 8 election.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert’s cellphone sent nine text messages to murder defendant David E. Fields’ cellphone hours before the shooting death of Carl Silas at an apartment near Belleville, according to court documents.

In an affidavit for a search warrant, St. Clair County Sheriff’s Investigator Justin Biggs wrote that Duebbert told Major Case Squad investigators Patrick McGuire and Timothy Lawrence that he did not have any contact with Fields since 8 p.m. on Dec. 29 — the night before the murder.

The search warrant stated that a search of Duebbert’s phone, a Samsung Galaxy S7, revealed Duebbert’s cell texted Fields’ cellphone:

▪  at 8:10 p..m

▪  at 10:33 p.m.

▪  at 10:34:25 p.m.

▪  at 10:34:48 p.m.

▪  at 10:40 p.m.

▪  at 10:42:22 p.m.

▪  at 10:42:43 p.m.

▪  at 10:47:18 p.m.

▪  at 10:47:39 p.m.

The search warrant stated Fields’ iPhone 6, which was listed as a line on Duebbert’s account, returned texts to Duebbert’s cellphone:

▪  at 10:34:48 p.m.

▪  at 10:47:39 p.m.

Duebbert could not be reached for comment.

With Duebbert’s consent, McGuire took custody of Duebbert’s cellphone, the court record stated.

On Dec. 30 about 5 a.m., Silas, 28, was found by sheriff’s deputies on a bed in an apartment at 2913 West Boulevard near Belleville. He had been shot twice in the head. The search warrant also stated that Silas’ girlfriend saw Fields shoot Silas.

Three other witnesses were in the apartment and identified Fields as one of the two men who forced their way into the apartment and forced occupants to the floor at gunpoint while demanding money. All three witnesses identified Fields as the shooter with the long gun. The other unknown male was armed with a shotgun.

Duebbert told investigators that he met with Fields around 8 p.m. on Dec. 29. Duebbert told police that he and Fields talked on the phone to set up the meeting.

Investigators sought from wireless provider Sprint that the calls, call logs, contacts, mail, voicemail, text messages, photographs and browser traffic be preserved on Fields’ and Duebbert’s phones. They further requested that a ZTE cellphone found on Silas’ body be searched.

State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly requested a special prosecutor handle the murder charges against Fields and review the Major Case Squad’s request for obstruction charges against Duebbert.

Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson removed Duebbert from cases on Jan. 3 because of his connection to Fields.

Fields, 20, lived at Duebbert’s Powder Mill Road address for a time. Fields registered at the address for the Illinois State Police Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth.

Duebbert, a Republican, defeated longtime Democrat and former Chief Judge John Baricevic in the Nov. 8 election. He will continue to receive his $194,500 annual salary. He was sworn in on Dec. 5.

Fields was 17 and facing aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated battery of a pregnant person charges when the two met on the parking lot of Duebbert’s law office in 2013. Fields was accused of beating and raping a 17-year-old girl at Belleville East High School. Fields and Duebbert struck up a conversation about Duebbert’s car, according to Duebbert. Fields eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated battery and received a six-year prison sentence.

A friendship began, according to Duebbert, who said he was “being Christian” and trying to help Field’s get his life together. After Fields’ release from prison last year, Duebbert said he offered Fields a place to live. Duebbert, who is gay, denied a romantic relationship between himself and Fields.

Fields posted videos on Facebook showing he and Duebbert together. In one video, from May 19, 2015, about three months before Fields went to the Illinois Department of Corrections, Fields is seen riding in Duebbert’s Porsche while Duebbert is seen driving. Fields uses gang language, threatens violence, refers to his Versace pants and tells Duebbert the two “look like millionaires.” In one of the videos, he calls Duebbert “Dollar Bill.”

Fields is currently being held in St. Clair County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer

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