DECATUR — The wheels of justice grinding toward a trial for Zachary M. Pherigo, who is charged with shooting and killing his 2-year-old nephew, are turning slower as the prosecution and defense await a state report into the toddler's death.
Justin Lee Murphy Jr. was shot in the back Oct. 14 in the 1400 block of East Wellington Way, police said. Pherigo, 17, of Decatur, told police the shooting was an accident while playing with a .45-caliber handgun he had found a day earlier near a dumpster.
Macon County State’s Attorney Jay Scott has charged Pherigo as an adult with first-degree murder. Pherigo is being held in the Peoria County Juvenile Detention Center.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is compiling a report outside the police investigation that attorneys on both sides want see before the case proceeds.
“They (DCFS) may have interviewed people where both defense and I want to know what they said. Is it the same as what they said in the police report or is it different from what they said in the police report?” Assistant Macon County State’s Attorney Kate Kurtz explained after Thursday's hearing in Macon County Circuit Court.
During the hearing with Assistant Public Defender Steve Perbix, Kurtz told Judge Jeffrey Geisler that DCFS won’t close its investigation until it receives the results of certain tests from the Illinois State Police forensic laboratory.
Kurtz said she had never heard of DCFS waiting on lab results before but said it is difficult to press the state agency.
“The Department of Children and Family Services is their own entity, and they do what they want,” Kurtz said.
“I am aware of that,” said Geisler, who scheduled a hearing for Jan. 12 in hopes the report would be available by then.
Phone messages seeking comment and left by the Herald & Review at DCFS offices in Chicago and Springfield were not immediately returned Thursday.
The Herald & Review has attempted to obtain a booking photo of Pherigo, but Macon County Sheriff Howard Buffett said Thursday no picture is available because Pherigo was never booked into the local jail.
A Peoria County Juvenile Detention Center spokeswoman said the center does not release any inmate information.