Charges filed in Edwardsville double homicide
Madison County Circuit Judge Kyle Napp on Friday continued the case of Zachary I. Capers, the 23-year-old Collinsville man charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of Lois and Michael Ladd, an Edwardsville couple, last month.
A felony court spokeswoman said a grand jury will hear the case Thursday morning.
“If they indict him, there will be an arraignment at 1 p.m. Thursday,” she said. “If they don’t indict him, he’ll be set on a contested preliminary hearing docket.”
Capers wasn’t brought into the courtroom on Friday. Four family members sat on the front row before being escorted to another room. Three people close to the Ladds sat in the second row and spoke briefly to Assistant State’s Attorney Jacob Harlow.
The decision to ask for a grand-jury indictment is no surprise, said Capers’ attorney, Public Defender John Rekowski. “I can’t even remember the last time that didn’t happen in a murder case.”
Capers will plead “not guilty” at the arraignment, Rekowski said, but his line of defense won’t be determined until more information is gathered. Last week, Rekowski said Capers had a history of “mental-health issues.”
Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons couldn’t be reached for comment. At a March 19 news conference, he called the Ladd murders “brutal and heinous” and said he would seek a life sentence for Capers.
“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.”
Murders shocked local residents
Edwardsville police found the bodies of Lois Ladd, 68, a well-known chiropractor, and her husband, Michael Ladd, 79, a general contractor, about 10:30 a.m. March 18 at their home in the 800 block of North Kansas Street. One of Lois Ladd’s employees had called after she didn’t show up for work.
The Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis was brought in to investigate.
At that point, police already had arrested Capers on an outstanding Madison County warrant in an unrelated incident March 17 in Worden. They later linked him to the Ladd case.
On March 19, Gibbons charged Capers with four counts of first-degree murder. Two are “alternative counts” that will give his office flexibility in prosecuting the case, he said.
Capers is being held at the Madison County Jail without bond.
The Major Case Squad unit that was formed to investigate the Ladd case was disbanded on March 21, Edwardsville police Lt. Mike Lybarger said.
“We are now the investigating agency,” he said. “We will follow up on anything that needs to be followed up on.”
Motive still unknown to public
Officials haven’t made any public comments about motive for the murders or provided information on what led Capers to the Ladd home. It’s isolated on a hill, surrounded by woods, at the end of a steep driveway, off a narrow dead-end lane. It’s not visible from North Kansas Street.
Jeff Connor, chief deputy commander on the Illinois side for the Major Case Squad, said March 19 that police hadn’t found a connection between Capers and the Ladds.
“At this point, we have no evidence suggesting they knew each other,” he said. “But we are still wanting the public’s help in case there is a connection that we haven’t learned about yet.”
Capers was arrested March 17 on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear at his Jan. 22 trial on 2017 charges of forgery and possessing a stolen vehicle.
Also on March 17, he was charged with trespassing on a Madison County deputy sheriff’s property in Worden and obstructing a peace officer by allegedly fleeing to avoid arrest, and he received a ticket for possession of drug paraphernalia.
Capers attended Edwardsville High School but didn’t graduate with the Class of 2013. During a police contact in 2017, officers searched him and found a student ID card from Lewis and Clark Community College.
Capers has a long police record, with charges ranging from forgery to assault, trespass to possession of a stolen vehicle. In some cases, he was issued warnings for less-serious actions such as loitering or not paying for restaurant meals. One incident involved voluntary transfer to a hospital with an inpatient psychiatric unit.
Police confident in Capers’ arrest
The murders have been the talk of Edwardsville for two weeks, with residents developing a range of theories on what they think really happened. Some wonder if the Ladds tried to help Capers, who was widely believed to be homeless. The Ladds were known as kind, generous and active in the community.
Lybarger declined to comment on evidence or other details of the investigation, but he sought to assure local residents that they are safe.
“We absolutely know that we got the right guy, and the community can rest knowing that we got the right guy,” he said. “The investigation was very fruitful.”
This week, Lois Ladd’s chiropractic patients received letters in the mail, giving them an update on the status of her practice, The Last Resort in Whole Body Health.
“With deep sadness, I am writing to let you know of the untimely passing of Dr. Lois Ladd and her husband, Mike Ladd,” wrote Chiropractic Assistant Ellen Proctor. “Those of you who travel some distance to this office may not be aware, and I am so sorry to break the news to you.”
The letter didn’t get any more specific about the murders.
Proctor advised patients that they can still get herbs and supplements prescribed by Ladd in the past. Referrals are being made to chiropractor David Thayer and Sue Munshaw, a nurse and massage therapist.
“Regarding the future of this office, the family is working with Dr. Thayer and Sue Munshaw on plans for the continuation of Dr. Ladd’s practice, being respectful of her philosophy of care while also maintaining her holistic approach to healing.”