Man charged with murder after Belleville mayor’s daughter finds body in street

A drug deal gone sour preceded the death of a 65-year-old man in Belleville on Tuesday, police said. Two suspects have been arrested, one of them charged with first degree murder.

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said early Friday afternoon that James Jennings had been charged with first degree murder and was being held on a $500,000 bail in connection with Robert Judy’s death.

Police said in a statement that Judy met with others at a fast food restaurant on Tuesday, and decided to go to a nearby park where the suspect, the victim and others drank alcohol. Police say the victim bought what he thought was marijuana from another person and an argument broke out when he discovered it was fake. The victim then left the area.

Judy was in the area of West Monroe and Bornman streets when Jennings and another man confronted him, police say. Police say the suspect, who did not sell the fake drugs to the victim, struck the victim on the head with a closed fist. The victim fell to the ground and the suspects went through his pockets, police say.

A short time later, the daughter of Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert was leaving her father’s home nearby when she saw the man in the street. She called Eckert, who then called police and an ambulance when he saw the man on the street.

Kelly specified that no firearm was involved in the man’s death.

Police identified the suspects from “critical information” obtained from an unnamed witness, Capt. Mark Heffernan said in a statement. Jennings and another suspect were arrested by St. Clair County Sheriff’s Deputies at the Emerson Park Metro Link station hours after the death.

The second person arrested remains in custody at St. Clair County Jail on unrelated charges, police said.