DECATUR — James J. Chatman, a 45-year-old career criminal who has served five prison terms, was charged Wednesday with three counts of first-degree murder for shooting 20-year-old James “Nate” Johnson to death.
If convicted, Chatman will be sentenced to a minimum of 45 years in prison, to be served at 100 percent, or up to life in prison. He is being held in the Macon County Jail on $5 million bond.
His brother, Anthony L. Chatman, 43, who admittedly was at the near north side apartment at the time of the shooting, was released from jail Wednesday morning.
Prosecutors decided not to charge Anthony Chatman. He was arrested on March 11, the day after the slaying, on an arrest warrant which also charged him with first-degree murder. He has been held in the jail since then.
First Assistant Macon County State’s Attorney Nichole Kroncke said Anthony Chatman has been cooperating with authorities.
“After reviewing all investigative reports and discussing the case with Decatur Police Department investigators, we are unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Anthony Chatman is accountable for the murder of Nate Johnson,” Kroncke said.
The victim’s family has been notified of the decision to release Anthony Chatman.
Police allege the Chatman brothers arrived together at an apartment on the 1100 block of North College Street, at about 11:18 p.m. Sunday, March 10. They apparently went there to settle a dispute related to drug transactions between Nate Johnson and James Chatman’s 18-year-old son, Devante Hill, police have said.
A witness, who was at the apartment at the time of the shooting, told police that when the brothers arrived he spoke with Anthony while James entered the apartment. He then heard three to five gunshots. Shortly after that, the witness saw James Chatman running down an outdoor staircase with a gun in his hand.
The brothers fled the scene and were arrested the following day, after police obtained first-degree murder warrants against them.
Hill has been charged with obstruction of justice in the case, for allegedly lying to police about his role in the incident and his whereabouts that night. He is free on bond pending his arraignment.
James Chatman’s longtime girlfriend, Maleea Kareotes, 44, was also arrested on charges of obstructing justice, for allegedly providing false information to the police after the shooting. She is also free pending her arraignment.
A preliminary autopsy report showed that Nate Johnson died from a single gunshot to his chest. First responders found him in the apartment unresponsive shortly after the shooting occurred.
James Chatman is scheduled to be arraigned on the first-degree murder charges at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in circuit court.