Crime

Court filings shed little light on circumstances or motive in Edwardsville murders

Charges filed in Edwardsville double homicide

Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons announces at a March 19 news conference that murder charges have been filed in the stabbing deaths of an Edwardsville couple.
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Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons announces at a March 19 news conference that murder charges have been filed in the stabbing deaths of an Edwardsville couple.

It’s been nearly three months since the stabbing deaths of a prominent Edwardsville couple, and the public still doesn’t know what really happened.

Police arrested Zachary Capers, 23, of Collinsville, on an unrelated warrant March 17, and prosecutors charged him with the murders two days later. But officials haven’t revealed a motive or provided information on how the suspect may have ended up at the home of Lois Ladd, 68, a well-known chiropractor, and her husband, Michael Ladd, 79, a general contractor.

On Tuesday, Assistant State’s Attorney Jacob Harlow filed a notice of intention to seek a mandatory life sentence for Capers. At a news conference on March 19, State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons already had stated that this was his plan.

“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.”

Harlow declined comment on Wednesday, citing the ongoing investigation. Gibbons couldn’t be reached for comment.

Capers was indicted by a grand jury April 11 on four counts of first-degree murder, and he pleaded “not guilty” at his preliminary hearing the same day. Since that time, the only court filings to shed light on circumstances of the case were Harlow’s motion on April 18 to “consume” (test) biological specimens and a May 9 supplemental discovery list.

The motion stated that evidence collected by investigators included pieces of rubber gloves found on the bed and floor in the Ladds’ master bedroom, one of them near Michael Ladd’s right knee, and swabs of “blood-like staining” from walls of the master bedroom and Capers’ left boot.

“These samples are presently in the custody of the Illinois State Police Division of Forensic Sciences and may be compared with other DNA samples already obtained,” the motion stated.

The supplemental discovery listed more than 100 pieces of evidence, including interviews with friends, family and others; cellphone data; surveillance video from homes and businesses; and photos of the crime scene, autopsy, a knife, wallet, purse, car parts, the silver Kia Sorento that Capers was driving and items in it.

Ladd obituary photo.jpg
Lois and Michael Ladd are shown in happier times in this photo, which the family used for their obituary. The Edwardsville couple were murdered in March. Provided

Capers is being held in the Madison County Jail without bond. He’s represented by John Rekowski, longtime Madison County public defender.

Assistant Public Defender Kelcie Miller was assisting Rekowski on the case, but she was fired, arrested and charged with three felonies last week for practicing without a law license. Rekowski couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday on who would take her place.

“I have hired I don’t know how many people over my 35 years,” Rekowski said at a news conference last week. “I have never asked to see a law license. I’ve never been lied to about it. ... I just had no reason to ever think that anybody would do this. The big lie sometimes is better than the small one.”

Edwardsville police found the Ladds’ bodies on the morning of March 18 in 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, the Madison County Sheriff’s Department already had arrested Capers on an outstanding warrant in an unrelated incident March 17 in Worden. They later linked him to the Ladd case.

Jeff Connor, chief deputy commander on the Illinois side for the Major Case Squad, announces at a March 19 news conference that an arrest has been made in the stabbing deaths of an Edwardsville couple.

Capers was using the Collinsville address of his sister, but he was widely believed to be living on the streets. In early April, Rekowski said his client had “mental-health issues,” judging from police reports and discussions with family members.

Capers has a long, but non-violent police record. Charges range 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.

The Ladd home was isolated on a hill, surrounded by woods, at the end of a steep driveway, off a narrow dead-end lane and 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 couple.

Friends saw the Ladds on March 16 at a St. Patrick’s Day party at the Stagger Inn Again in Edwardsville.

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.

Jeff Connor, chief deputy commander on the Illinois side for the Major Case Squad, announces at a March 18 news conference that agents are investigating the murders of an Edwardsville couple.

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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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