Crime

Police departments in Madison County had more than 35 contacts with murder suspect

Public defender’s comments after Edwardsville murder suspect pleads not guilty

John Rekowski, the attorney for Zachary Capers, spoke after his client pleaded not guilty to murder charges.
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John Rekowski, the attorney for Zachary Capers, spoke after his client pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

Before he was charged with first-degree murder last month, Zachary Capers was well-known among police officers in Madison County communities.

There are more than 35 police reports involving Capers on file with departments in Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Collinsville, Alton, East Alton and Wood River; the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for the 19-month period September 2017 to March 2019.

Capers, 23, is accused of stabbing to death a well-known Edwardsville couple. The bodies of chiropractor Lois Ladd, 68, and her husband, contractor Michael Ladd, 79, were found March 18 in their home. A grand jury indicted Capers on April 11. A Madison County judge put his trial on the May 6 calendar.

Capers formerly lived in Glen Carbon and attended Edwardsville High School. In recent years, he used the Collinsville address of a sibling, but he was widely believed to be homeless. Several of the police reports involve him sleeping in booths at fast-food restaurants; in bathrooms at laundromats and gas stations; in a vacant house that was up for sale; and on a futon in the basement of an apartment building.

In some cases, Capers was unable to pay for meals in restaurants. Several businesses, including an Edwardsville bank and hotel, requested trespass notices that prohibited him from returning.

Some of the police reports describe suspicious, odd or disruptive behavior, such as staring into store windows, standing in the street or yelling at people at the library. In two cases, officers described Capers as a “possible 10-96,” which is code for mental subject. In one, he was voluntarily transported to Gateway Regional Medical Center, which has an inpatient psychiatric unit.

Several incidents resulted in misdemeanor or felony charges. The most serious was in September 2017, when Capers was charged in Madison County with two felony counts of possessing a stolen vehicle. That case involved the theft of a truck outside a Godfrey sports bar that was later found wrecked and abandoned in Scott County, where a second truck was stolen, leading to more charges.

Capers was arrested several times on outstanding warrants for failure to appear in court. In all cases involving arrests, he was transported to the Madison County Jail after being unable to post bond.

Here is a list of contacts described in police reports obtained by the BND through Freedom of Information Act requests:

  • Sept. 18, 2017 — Madison County sheriff’s deputies responded to a report that a man had stolen a blue Ford F-250 truck parked outside the Regal Beagle sports bar in Godfrey with the engine running. The vehicle was found the next day wrecked and abandoned in Scott County, where the suspect reportedly stole another vehicle, a red Ford F-250 truck. An investigation led police to Capers, who told them he was homeless when he was arrested at Lewis and Clark Community College. He was taken to Madison County Jail and charged Sept. 22 with two felony counts of possession of a stolen vehicle.
  • Oct. 24, 2017 — Edwardsville police issued Capers a trespass notice, warning him not to return to Big Daddy’s. This action was indicated on an Oct. 26 report that also mentioned Capers had received trespass notices for other locations in Edwardsville.
  • Oct. 26, 2017 — Edwardsville police responded to a report of Capers walking around in yards near Notre Dame and Hadley Lane. When officers tried to give him a written warning for trespass, he allegedly refused to reveal his identity, stating it was “a violation of his rights.” Police said searches revealed a Lewis and Clark Community College student ID card, a counterfeit $50 bill and a key that had disappeared from a GMC Sierra in a tow lot. Capers was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice, felony forgery and misdemeanor theft. He was transported to the Madison County Jail after being unable to post bond.
  • Nov. 18, 2017 — Edwardsville police issued Capers a trespass notice, warning him not to return to D.Q. Grill & Chill. This action was indicated on a Nov. 19 report.
  • Nov. 19, 2017 — Edwardsville police responded to a report of Capers sleeping in a booth at D.Q. Grill & Chill. He had been issued a trespass notice the day before but reportedly told police that he had forgotten. He was charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass and transported to the Madison County Jail after being unable to post bond.
  • Nov. 27, 2017 — Edwardsville police responded to a report from Country Hearth Inn & Suites. The hotel clerk said he had allowed Capers to watch TV in the lobby for a few minutes to get warm, but when he inquired about Capers’ departure, Capers allegedly yelled at him and chased him around the lobby. Capers was charged with misdemeanor assault and issued a trespass notice. At the police department, he reportedly began to “shiver uncontrollably,” requested emergency medical services and was transported by ambulance to Anderson Hospital.
  • Nov. 28, 2017 — Collinsville police responded to a report from a manager at Maurice’s clothing store in a strip mall on Beltline Road that Capers was “acting a little odd,” pacing back and forth and staring in the window. He was told to “move along.” The officer referred to him as a possible “10-96,” which is code for mental subject.
  • Dec. 2, 2017 — Collinsville police responded to a report from Capers’ brother. “(Capers) has been living with him and has not been acting right. Wanting an officer to speak with him,” it states. Officers again referred to Capers as a possible mental subject. He was taken voluntarily to Gateway Regional Medical Center in Granite City, which has a psychiatric inpatient unit.
  • Jan. 23, 2018 — Edwardsville police responded to a report from an unspecified bank near Hunter’s Pointe subdivision that Capers was walking around the building and looking in windows. After an officer explained that “Capers is known to EPD, and this is common behavior for him,” the bank manager reportedly asked for him to be issued a trespass notice.
  • Jan. 23, 2018 — Glen Carbon police responded to a report from Midwest Petroleum gas station. Capers reportedly was going in and out of the store repeatedly and spending long periods of time in the bathroom. He told police he was on his way to catch a bus and felt ill.
  • Jan. 25, 2018 — Glen Carbon police completed a “pedestrian check” on Capers about 12:30 a.m. on Glen Crossing Road. No further information was provided.
  • Jan. 26, 2018 — Collinsville police responded to a report of suspicious behavior by Capers in the vicinity of Bluff Road and Horseshoe Lake Road. , including U.S. Wireless. He told police he was “walking around looking for jobs.”
  • Feb. 1, 2018 — Collinsville police responded to a report that involved unspecified disorderly conduct by a man believed to be Capers near Walmart. He was gone when police arrived.
  • Feb. 1, 2018 — Collinsville police responded to a report of a man believed to be Capers standing in a corner and “acting strangely” at Code 3 BBQ Supply. He was gone when police arrived.
  • Feb. 9, 2018 — Collinsville police responded to a report that Capers had spent more than 30 minutes in the bathroom at St. Louis Bread Co. and was “possibly schizo” and “talking to himself.” Employees said he had previously gotten upset when they wouldn’t let him use the phone. He was issued a trespass notice.
  • Feb. 23, 2018 — Edwardsville police responded to a report at Dewey’s Pizza that Capers was unable to pay his $48 food bill. During the contact, he was arrested on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear on charges of criminal trespass to land. He was transported to the Madison County Jail after being unable to post bond.
  • April 7, 2018 — Edwardsville police arrested Capers on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court on an assault charge. They had made contact with him after stopping a car near Illinois 143 and Drda Lane and arresting the driver for DUI. Capers was a passenger, and police reportedly recognized him. He was transported to the Madison County Jail after being unable to post bond.
  • April 10, 2018 — Glen Carbon police responded to a report of suspicious activity by Capers at Denny’s. He reportedly ordered food over a three-hour period then, after his credit card was declined, talked another customer into paying the bill; kept asking customers to use their phones; and peered over a ledge to watch an employee handle money at the cash register, which made her feel “uneasy.” He was issued a trespass notice.
  • July 12, 2018 — Edwardsville police responded to a report that Capers was sleeping in the basement common area of an apartment building. He was told to stay off the property. “Zachary is known ... as being homeless,” an officer wrote. Capers also was arrested on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court on an assault charge. He was transported to the Madison County Jail after being unable to post bond.
  • July 15, 2018 — Edwardsville police responded to a second report from the same apartment building that Capers had been sleeping in the basement, but he was no longer on the premises.
  • July 18, 2018 — Edwardsville police followed up on prior reports involving the apartment building and reportedly found Capers sleeping on a futon in the basement. He was charged with two counts of misdemeanor criminal trespass at 518 Hillsboro Ave. for the July 15 and July 18 complaints. He was transported to the Madison County Jail after being unable to post bond.
  • Aug. 10, 2018 — Edwardsville police responded to a report from The Bank of Edwardsville that Capers was acting suspiciously in the lobby before changing the address on his bank account, going outside, crouching and looking into the window of an employee break room.
  • Aug. 14, 2018 — Edwardsville police observed Capers walking in the right turn lane of St. Louis Street at North Main and questioned him about it. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant to appear in Scott County court on 2017 charges related to vehicle theft. He was transported to the Madison County Jail after being unable to post bond.
  • Sept. 13, 2018 — Collinsville police responded to a report from Verizon Wireless that Capers was “laying in the street, curled up.” They called for emergency medical services for a possible dislocated knee.
  • Oct. 3, 2018 — Collinsville police responded to a report from Ramon’s El Dorado restaurant that Capers was walking around the building “suspiciously” then came inside, attempted to pay his $14 bill with a credit card that was declined and never returned to settle up on the bill.

  • Oct. 24, 2018 — Collinsville police responded to a report from the Waffle House that Capers and and another homeless man had failed to pay their bill and were told to leave.

  • Nov. 17, 2018 — Collinsville police responded to two reports that Capers was “yelling at cars/cursing” and “stumbling into traffic,” which forced cars to swerve on West Main Street near Sycamore. He told officers he was “just singing and dancing” and wasn’t in the roadway.

  • Dec. 2, 2018 — Collinsville police responded to a report that Capers was sleeping in a McDonald’s booth on Beltline Road, and he was asked to leave.

  • Dec. 28, 2018 — Edwardsville police responded to a report from Edwardsville Public Library that Capers was “yelling and causing a disturbance” and threatening to sue the library after running out of time on a computer. An employee stated that Capers had been leaving his belongings in the library for the past week, despite requests not to do so. Capers reportedly told police he wasn’t really yelling and he had left his belongings by accident.
  • Jan. 5, 2019 — East Alton police responded to a report of Capers being locked in the bathroom of Circle K for about an hour. He reportedly stated that he had been drinking all night and fell asleep on the toilet while waiting for a ride. “No suspicious activity was located,” an officer wrote.
  • Jan. 16, 2019 — SIUE police responded to a report of Capers roaming through Peck Hall, looking through classroom doors and windows and checking locks. He reportedly told officers he was trying to get Wi-Fi and waiting for a bus. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in Scott County court, where he had been charged in 2017 with possession of a stolen vehicle and residential burglary. He was transported to the Madison County Jail after being unable to post bond then transferred to Scott County Jail.
  • Jan. 27, 2019 — Alton police responded to a report of a homeless man in Best Wash Laundromat. Capers reportedly told police he was waiting on a ride to his residence in Alton, refused to provide further information and left the scene.
  • Feb. 1, 2019 — Wood River police responded to a report from Capers, who had called 911. He reportedly told an officer that he had been in the bathroom at Sudsy Dudsy laundromat and that a male subject, who identified himself as security, had kicked open the door. Capers left without further incident.
  • Feb. 14, 2019 — Collinsville police responded to a report of a possible squatter in a vacant home for sale on Bellevue Drive. The owner’s granddaughter told of a bad smell, missing window, torn screen and backpack with personal items and a piece of paper with Capers’ name on it. That case remains under investigation.

  • March 17, 2019 — Madison County sheriff’s deputies arrested Capers in Worden on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear for trial Jan. 22 on 2017 felony charges of forgery and possessing a stolen vehicle. In the same incident, he was charged with trespassing on a deputy sheriff’s property in Worden and obstructing a peace officer by allegedly fleeing to avoid arrest. He also got a ticket for possession of drug paraphernalia. He was taken to Madison County Jail and charged March 19 with first-degree murder in the Ladd case.
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Teri Maddox has been a reporter for 35 years, joining the Belleville News-Democrat in 1990. She also teaches journalism at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. She holds degrees from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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