A 23-year-old Collinsville man has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of a well-known Edwardsville couple over the weekend.
Zachary I. Capers, who may have recently been living on the streets, is now in custody at Madison County Jail, according to officials who spoke at a news conference late Tuesday afternoon. He is being held without bond.
Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said his office will seek a life sentence in the murders of Lois Ladd, 68, a chiropractor, and her husband, Michael Ladd, 79, a contractor.
“The only reason we will be seeking a life sentence is because I do not have the death penalty available to me,” Gibbons said. “If I did, we would be pursuing the death penalty in this case.”
“This is a brutal and heinous murder,” he added. “(The Ladds) are absolutely innocent and wonderful people, whose lives are lost and who leave behind an amazing family, a tremendous number of friends and community members who know and love them.”
Gibbons said he had personally known the Ladds for decades.
Two of the four counts of first-degree murder are “alternative counts” that will give the state’s attorney’s office flexibility in prosecuting the case, he said.
Jeff Connor, chief deputy commander on the Illinois side for the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis, said Capers was arrested Sunday on an outstanding warrant in an unrelated incident, and through “good police work,” investigators were able to link him to the murders.
“I’ve been asked a lot about the connection between the suspect and the victims, and I’m here to tell you, there is no connection,” Connor said. “At this point, we have no evidence suggesting they knew each other. But we are still wanting the public’s help in case there is a connection that we haven’t learned about yet.”
Officials declined to provide information on whether there was forced entry into the Ladd home, the circumstance of Capers’ arrest and other details of the double-homicide investigation.
Edwardsville police discovered the bodies of Lois and Michael Ladd about 10:30 a.m. Monday in their home in the 800 block of North Kansas Street. One of Lois Ladd’s employees had reportedly called and asked for someone to check on her.
Connor said about 30 agents have been working on the case, and they believe the murders occurred Saturday night or Sunday morning.
Edwardsville mayor Hal Patton also spoke at the news conference.
“I’d like to extend my appreciation to the Major Case Squad for the excellent job that they have done for us,” he said. “This is a horrific crime, a senseless crime, a crime against two people that were wonderful members of our community, that would bend over backwards to help anyone at any time.”
Patton said Lois Ladd recently participated in an Edwardsville Rotary Club effort to help the homeless and others in need by preparing 22,000 meals at a local church.
The Ladds lived in a house on top of a hill, surrounded by woods, off a one-lane dirt and gravel road. The neighborhood has an isolated, rural feel, even though it’s just north of downtown Edwardsville.
Neighbor Josh Meyer, 39, said he hasn’t lived on the road long and didn’t know the Ladds. He heard about the murders on Monday while driving back from a business trip to Florida.
“My friends were all calling me when I was on the road,” he said. “They thought it was me (who was murdered). ... I didn’t get home until 4 o’clock in the morning. It was a little eerie.”
On Monday evening, the Ladds’ shocked friends described them as fun-loving and kind people. Lois Ladd was known for giving free or discounted chiropractic adjustments to patients with limited incomes. She also was a frequent traveler who recently returned from Thailand.
The couple had no children.
Friends reported seeing the Ladds at Stagger Inn Again in Edwardsville on Saturday night, when the restaurant and bar was hosting a St. Patrick’s Day celebration and Lois Ladd was decked out in green.
Lois Ladd’s practice, called The Last Resort in Whole Body Health, included chiropractic services, pain management, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. Michael Ladd operated under the company name Michael Ladd Construction.
People who have information on the Ladd case are encouraged to report it at 618-307-1611. An anonymous tip line also is available at 618-692-7552.