Metro-East News

Dead woman was witness in trial of man who killed Washington Park mayor

Left to right, Washington Park Village clerk Joyce Smih, Washington Park mayor John Thornton, business consultant Rick Jones and Gene Maxwell talk on April 18, 2005.
Left to right, Washington Park Village clerk Joyce Smih, Washington Park mayor John Thornton, business consultant Rick Jones and Gene Maxwell talk on April 18, 2005. dholtmann@bnd.com

A Washington Park woman found dead Saturday in a ditch was once a witness in the murder case of Washington Park Mayor John Thornton.

Nortisha Ball, 27, testified in the trial of Aaron “Chill” Jackson, who was accused of shooting Thornton. Ball testified that she falsely identified Jackson as the shooter because she was threatened with jail by Washington Park Detective Kim McAfee if she didn’t.

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said Tuesday that he didn’t believe Ball’s death and her testimony in the trial were connected.

“No information leads us to believe they are related at this time,” Kelly said.

Guest Book: Nortisha Ball

McAfee, contacted Wednesday, said Ball had nothing to do with identifying Jackson as the shooter. McAfee said he didn’t recall meeting Ball.

Washington Park Police Chief Tony Tomlinson said Ball’s testimony did come up after her body was discovered.

“That definitely popped up on our radar,” Tomlinson said. “We are going to hold that open and take a look at it, but at this point we don’t think it is connected.”

That definitely popped up on our radar. We are going to hold that open and take a look at it, but at this point we don’t think it is connected.

Washington Park Police Chief Tony Tomlinson

Ball’s body was found in a ditch near 38th Street and Bunkum Road in Washington Park.

The exact cause of death had not yet been determined as of Wednesday, but investigators found no signs of blunt trauma. Police were waiting for toxicology results.

Ball’s fully clothed body was found face-down in a ditch Saturday. Some children walking to a nearby store saw the body and called police.

Police said it appeared the body had been there for a couple of days.

Illinois State Police are investigating Ball’s death. They also investigated Thornton’s murder.

At one point, former ISP agent Joe Bates testified that McAfee himself was questioned Oct. 26, 2011 as a suspect in Thornton’s murder.

McAfee is no longer a Washington Park Police officer. He was sentenced to 26 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to more than 30 counts of fraud and other crimes related to his security firm, which did work for the East St. Louis school and housing authority.

Thornton was gunned down near Caseyville Avenue and 48th Street in Washington Park. Three shots were fired into his car, which hit a tree.

Ball, at a first trial for Jackson, testified that Jackson was the shooter. At a second trial, Ball recanted her previous testimony, saying the man fleeing the scene was not Jackson. She then testified that McAfee forced her to incriminate Jackson.

Ball had previously been convicted of drug and burglary offenses.

Jackson was convicted in a second trial. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

McAfee was released from federal prison in 2013.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer

  Comments