DECATUR – Daiquan Cline, one of four teens charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of 21-year-old Cesley Taylor in 2015, entered a guilty plea Wednesday morning in Macon County Circuit Court.
According to the terms of his plea agreement, Cline will receive 20 years in prison, to be served at 100 percent, if he testifies truthfully at any trials that may be held for the other three defendants.
Cline, who has been held without bond in the adult jail since he turned 18 on Jan. 27, had been in juvenile custody since his arrest on Sept. 8, 2015, the day following the slaying of Taylor during an armed robbery.
All of the defendants were 16 years old the day they allegedly went to Taylor's northside apartment, 1450 E. Wellington Way, to rob her and her roommate, Britney N. Wilson, then 20 years old.
Britney Wilson suffered multiple gunshot wounds, to her head, abdomen and legs.
If no other trials are scheduled, Cline would still receive the benefit of the plea bargain.
If convicted at a trial, the penalty three of the teens are facing is 20 to 60 years in prison, plus a firearm enhancement of 15 years to life.
Darion L. Evans, who reportedly confessed to police that he was the shooter, is facing the same base sentence, but his firearm enhancement is 25 years to life, for personally discharging a firearm. He told police he shot Taylor one or two times after she cursed at him during the robbery, then shot Wilson an unknown number of times.
About 15 family members and supporters of Taylor sat in the courtroom as Cline heard the factual basis of the case against him and responded “yes, sir” as Circuit Judge Thomas E. Griffith asked him a series of routine questions as to whether he understood his rights and details of the agreement.
He is scheduled to return to court April 4 for his sentencing to be finalized, a date which may be changed to coordinate with the completion of the cases of the other defendants.
Cline pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder. The original count included the allegation that Cline “shot Cesley Taylor with a gun,” thereby causing her death. But Cline's attorney, Edwin Piraino of Champaign, successfully argued for the gun passage to be deleted.
Piraino acknowledged that it was correct according to the accountability legal theory for his client to be charged with murder, by participating in a felony connected to the shooting death. But he argued for consideration for Cline, so that he would not be excluded from programs in prison because of his conviction for a gun crime.
Assistant State's Attorney Kate Kurtz, presenting the factual basis of the case, said Cline was among several masked intruders who went to Taylor's apartment about 9:15 p.m. Sept. 7. When police arrived, they found her unresponsive. She was pronounced dead in her home.
Police detectives subsequently arrested Shaitan Cook, Cline, Evans and Ryan O'Neal.
During a videotaped police interview, Cline said he and the three other males agreed to rob the women.
“He told police they forced their way in,” Kurtz said. “Evans had a gun that caused injuries to Britney Wilson and Cesley Taylor.”
All four of the defendants are being tried in adult court because murder is one of the charges mandated under Illinois law for automatic transfers for juveniles who are 16 or 17 years old.
O'Neal and Evans, both of whom turned 18 this year, are also being held without bond in the Macon County Jail. Cook is being held in the Peoria County Juvenile Detention Center, pending his July 2 birthday.
Evans has a hearing scheduled at 10:30 a.m. today in his case. Cook and O'Neal have pretrial hearings scheduled on Feb. 16 and 23, respectively.