As cops responded to 14th homicide in 2018, body from 15th homicide was yards away

As Illinois State Police were in the grassy courtyard of the Norman B. Owens public housing complex investigating East St. Louis’ 14th homicide death of the year on Tuesday evening, the 15th case lay feet away in the basement of a vacant apartment building.

The body of Rodney Lewis, 33, was found there early Thursday, riddled with bullets, according to ISP Master Sgt. Michael Lewis, who is no relation.

“We are encouraging people who live in this small community to come forward,” Lewis said. “If you saw something, please call us.”

ISP agents and crime scene technicians were on their way Tuesday night to investigate the murder of Jervon Felton, who was found on a grassy courtyard at the Norman B. Owens Housing complex, Lewis said, when another 911 call came in reporting shots fired about 6 p.m.

ISP agents and crime scene were headed to investigate and arrived on scene about 6:30 p.m., Lewis said.

Witnesses told police two men walked up to Felton. The men got into an argument and one of the men walked up to Felton and fired at him several times. Felton was shot in the chest, police said. The suspects ran west after the shooting.

Felton was taken to a St. Louis hospital, where he died from his injuries.

Rodney Lewis was found dead in the basement yards away hours later. He was a former resident of the housing complex.

“Right now, we are investigating them as separate incidents,” Lewis said.

Lewis was charged three times since July with criminal trespass at the housing complex. He also was charged with pulling a knife on a woman there. The charges note that Lewis was banned from the housing complex. He is listed as homeless on St. Clair County court records.

A first-floor window in Apartment 1125 was boarded up. Winds blew the curtains through the broken top story window.

A man and woman pulled up in a sport-utility vehicle while reporters were there. The man got out and walked to the boarded-up window. He didn’t respond when a reporter tried to speak to him. Tears were in his eyes. He walked back to the truck and left the scene without a word.

A utility crew was working nearby. When they learned a murder victim was found in the adjacent building, they called their supervisor to make sure it was alright to keep working.

Lewis said someone who lives at the housing complex, which has 200 to 300 residents, knows something and he encouraged them to tell police.

“Rodney and Jerron deserve a voice from their community,” he said. “Someone to step forward and do the right thing for their community.”

A woman who lived near the apartment where Lewis was found said she was afraid. The woman planned to pack up her three children and stay with a friend until things calmed down.

“I am worried about my safety ... and theirs,” the woman said gesturing to her 2-year-old daughter standing beside her.

Last year, East St. Louis’ experienced 35 homicides, the highest number of homicides in 17 years. At this time last year, the city had experienced 29 homicides.

Anyone who has information on the shootings are asked to call Illinois State Police Investigations at 618-346-3990 or Special Agent Bryant Johnson at 618-346-3766.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer