BLOOMINGTON — A 22-year-old woman pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to first-degree murder in the stabbing death of her mother in July.

Christine Roush of Washington was charged with killing her biological mother, Teresa Ann Poehlman, by stabbing her and then leaving her body in a secluded area of Funks Grove Nature Preserve.

Roush faces 20 to 60 years in prison when she is sentenced Jan. 31. Her plea did not include an agreement on a sentence.

A co-defendant, Matt Isbell, 20, of Marquette Heights also is charged with murder in the death of the East Peoria woman. He is scheduled to stand trial May 7.

Accompanied by defense lawyer Brian McEldowney, Roush responded softly to Judge Robert Freitag, answering "guilty" to the murder charge. 

State's Attorney Jason Chambers said the offer to plead guilty was not anticipated by the state at Wednesday's hearing, which initially was scheduled to review the status of the case.

"However, we were not about to stop it, considering the terms, which was an open plea to one count of the murder of Teresa Poehlman," said Chambers.

The resolution of the case with a plea was due to the work of McLean County's Sheriff's Department investigators and Assistant State's Attorneys David Spence and Ashley Scarborough, said Chambers. 

The victim's body was found July 2 by hikers at the nature preserve about 10 miles southwest of Bloomington. 

According to police, the two suspects took Poehlman, 47, to the wooded area where Roush killed her. Roush told Isbell ahead of time of the plan to kill her mother, according to authorities.

At a November hearing, Roush was deemed mentally fit to stand trial, based on the results of a psychiatric evaluation.

According to police, Roush killed her mother because she threatened to report to authorities Roush's alleged work as a prostitute. Such a move could have jeopardized Roush's efforts to have custody of her 2-year-old daughter, police said.

Still unknown is the status of a third suspect, a man who allegedly knew about the planning and cover-up of the murder. In a statement after the arrests, Chambers said the suspect is seen on surveillance video with Roush "at times relevant to the investigation."

Follow Edith Brady-Lunny on Twitter: @pg_blunny

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