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Decatur jury takes less than two hours to convict Santonio Byars of second-degree murder
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Decatur jury takes less than two hours to convict Santonio Byars of second-degree murder

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DECATUR — It took a jury 1 hour and 16 minutes Thursday to convict Decatur man Santonio Byars Sr. of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of 22-year-old Tobby J. Buhs.

After a four-day trial that began with jury selection Monday, the Macon County Circuit Court jurors retired to consider their verdict at 11:28 a.m. and were back in court to announce their decision to Judge Jeffrey Geisler at 12:44 p.m. A second, alternate count of second-degree murder had already been dismissed on a motion of the state before the jurors retired.

Byars, 48, now faces from four to 20 years in prison at one end of the punishment scale, or could be sentenced to probation at the other. Byars’ bond was revoked after the verdict and Geisler scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 6.

The case hinged on whether Byars was justified in using a knife to stab Buhs through the heart in the early morning hours of Nov. 4, 2018, after an argument in the wake of a street drag race.

Byars, through his attorney, Scott Rueter, had attempted to portray the bigger-built and taller Buhs as the aggressor who allegedly menaced Byars in an attempt to collect a $100 wager on the race. “And once you have heard all the evidence, ladies and gentlemen, it will be clear to you that this was a case of self-defense,” Rueter said.

The jurors, however, accepted the version of the killing described by First Assistant Macon County State’s Attorney Nichole Kroncke and Assistant State’s Attorney Mike Baggett. They portrayed Byars as the aggressor who had no legal justification when he pulled out a hunting knife he carried and plunged the 4½-inch blade into Buhs’s chest, having also stabbed him in the arm. Buhs was not armed.

“The evidence will show that this was a verbal argument about a foolish street race … and it ended with the defendant becoming angry and driving a hunting knife into the heart and lung of Tobby J. Buhs, ending his life,” Baggett told the jury.


2019 mug shots from the Herald & Review 

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid

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