The trial of David Fields, a 22-year-old charged with first-degree murder in a case that has ties to St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert, began Tuesday with the playing of an emotional 911 call for help.
Illinois Appellate Prosecutor Charles Colburn played a tape for the jury of JamIe Lott screaming and crying on the phone with a police dispatcher while describing the shooting of her boyfriend, Carl Z. Silas.
When the dispatcher asked Lott who did it, she answered, “My cousin David.”
Fields faces first-degree murder charges in connection with the shooting death of Silas on Dec. 30, 2016, at a West Boulevard apartment near Belleville.
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During his opening statement, Fields’ attorney, Ryan Neal, said eyewitness statements conflicted with each other and later with subsequent statements. He also said the perpetrator wore a ski mask, that it was dark in the apartment and that the witnesses weren’t that well acquainted with Fields.
“So many questions unanswered. So many stones left unturned,” Neal said.
Fields was a one-time roommate of St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert. Fields was free on parole for an aggravated assault on a Belleville East High school student at the time of the killing. A sexual assault charge against him was dismissed as part of a plea deal.
Virgil Perkins, an Illinois State Police crime-scene technician, testified that he took more than 100 pictures at the scene. He also collected a .40-caliber Taurus handgun from a bassinet near where Silas was shot. There were no fingerprints located on the gun.
Brittney Kimble, an attorney for Fields, asked Perkins why he didn’t collect samples of the blood found on the ceiling above Silas’ bed or in the other bedroom where a man named Raynard Parker received a head injury.
“I didn’t find it necessary,” Perkins responded.
Autopsy pictures showed Silas suffered a gunshot to the chin and beneath the chin.
More forensic testimony continued on Tuesday afternoon. ISP fingerprint expert Amy Hart testified that she found “no latent fingerprints suitable for comparison” on the Taurus handgun found at the crime scene. Aaron Horn, an ISP ballistics expert, testified the shell casings found at the scene came from the same family of semi-automatic rifles, such as a Chinese military rifle.
Tuesday’s testimony ended with Belleville Police Sgt. Karl Kraft. Kraft testified that he obtained surveillance video from the Circle K on East Main Street that showed Fields was in the store around 8 p.m. on Dec. 29 — about nine hours before the 911 call about the murder. Under cross-examination by Neal, Kraft said the store is down the block and across the street from the house where Tamara Long, Fields’ girlfriend and mother of his children, lived.
In response to Neal’s questioning, Colburn displayed a map to show the distance from where Fields was staying at 401 N. 70th St. in East St. Louis to the store, showing Fields was in Belleville in the hours before the murder.
After his release from prison in October 2016 for an attack on a Belleville East High School student, Fields was required to register with the Illinois State Police Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth list. He registered at Duebbert’s Powder Mill Road home. It was the waning days of the 2016 election where Duebbert, a Republican, faced then-St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic. Duebbert defeated Baricevic, but once Fields’ residency came to light, Duebbert was barred from hearing criminal cases.
After the murder, Major Case Squad investigators applied for obstruction of justice charges against Duebbert in connection to his statements about his contact with Fields in the hours up to the murder and his assertion that he didn’t know the whereabouts of the phone Duebbert gave Fields to use.
After the murder investigation, Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson, who took over for Baricevic, removed Duebbert from hearing cases.
Duebbert was later charged, not with obstruction of justice but with sexual abuse and intimidation charges. Those charges were later dismissed when the victim, a former client of Duebbert’s, declined to cooperate with prosecutors.
Despite having the criminal charges dismissed, Duebbert faces complaints from the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board. He continues to draw his full salary but cannot hear any cases.
Dedra Brock Moore, who represented Duebbert when he went before the grand jury on possible obstruction charges connected to the Silas murder, was in the courtroom on Tuesday, taking notes.
Duebbert is on the witness list to testify for the prosecution.