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DECATUR — A state report sought by prosecutors for Zachary M. Pherigo's first-degree murder case may be available at a Macon County Circuit Court hearing scheduled for March 8.

Pherigo, 17, of Decatur has pleaded not guilty in the shooting death of his 2-year-old nephew, Justin Lee Murphy Jr. Pherigo was in court Thursday for a brief hearing when the date was set.

A report from the Department of Children and Family Services has been subpoenaed by prosecutors who want to compare it with the police investigation into the shooting, which happened Oct. 14 in the 1400 block of East Wellington Way. Police said Pherigo told them the shooting was an accident while playing with a .45-caliber handgun he had found a day earlier near a dumpster.

Whether the prosecution and the defense receive the DCFS report will depend on Judge Jeffrey Geisler, who will read it and determine whether it is relevant to the case, said Macon County Assistant State’s Attorney Kate Kurtz, speaking after Thursday's hearing.

When contacted by the Herald & Review on Thursday about the report and why DCFS was investigating the death, a spokeswoman declined to comment on the record, responding with an email that linked to an annual report compiled by the Illinois Office of the Inspector General.

The annual report said the inspector general's office receives notification of all child deaths and serious injuries in Illinois in which the child or their family “were involved in the child welfare system within the preceding 12 months.” The office screens notification and determines which cases merit investigation for "possible misconduct by a foster parent, Department employee, or private agency employee, or whether it suggests a need for systemic change.” 

Illinois Assistant Attorney General Sean E. Miller represented DCFS at Thursday's hearing and told the court that the report could be ready by March 8.

Pherigo is being held in the Peoria County Juvenile Detention Center and is represented by defense attorney Steve Perbix. The Herald & Review has attempted to obtain a booking photo of Pherigo, but a detention center spokeswoman previously said the center does not release any inmate information.

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Macon County Courts Reporter

Macon County courts reporter for the Herald & Review.

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