Jury finds metro-east man guilty of murder over dice game

A Madison County jury convicted a metro-east man Friday for shooting and killing an Alton man in February 2014 during an argument over a dice game.

The verdict followed a week-long jury trial at the Madison County Criminal Justice Center.

After less than 90 minutes of deliberation, a jury found Justin D. Vaughn, 25, guilty of first-degree murder and unlawful possession of weapons by a felon.

Vaughn was charged with shooting Demetrius C. Lucas, 30, at the Storey Manor Apartment complex in Cottage Hills. Officers from the Alton Police Department responded to the apartment complex following a report of shots fired at approximately 10 p.m. Feb. 5, 2014. They determined that there had been a shooting and that Lucas had been taken to Alton Memorial Hospital before their arrival.

Lucas had been shot twice and was transferred to a St. Louis-area hospital shortly thereafter and pronounced dead about an hour later. Vaughn, who lived in the apartment complex, was taken into custody around 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 6, 2014. The investigation determined the men got into an argument during a dice game at a birthday party for Vaughn that escalated into the shooting death of Lucas.

Assistant State’s Attorneys Crystal Uhe and Rachelle Crowe began presenting evidence to the jury Tuesday. They argued that Vaughn deliberately shot Lucas rather than as an act of self-defense, as claimed by Vaughn’s defense attorneys.

On Thursday, Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli denied a motion by the defense that would have allowed jurors to consider self-defense in their deliberations.

Vaughn had previous felony convictions from 2011 for mob action and unlawful restraint.

“This was a dispute that turned violent in the worst way,” Madison County State’s Attorney Thomas Gibbons said. “I hope that this guilty verdict helps restore justice for our entire community and also serves as a message that we will not allow acts of violence such as this to prevail.”

Vaughn will remain in custody at the Madison County Jail in Edwardsville pending sentencing, which is expected to happen in six to eight weeks.

The murder conviction carries a minimum of 20 years in prison. In addition, because he used a firearm, he is eligible for an additional 25-year sentence, guaranteeing a minimum 45-year sentence, according to the prosecutor’s office. Due to previous felony convictions, he could also be sentenced to life in prison.