DECATUR – Five years and two months after a group of nine teen friends stomped to death 61-year-old Jerry Newingham and almost killed 46-year-old Kevin Wilson, the group's leaders, Deonta Johnson and his brother Elliott Murphy, are preparing for their second trial.
Johnson and Murphy were serving lengthy prison terms when the 4th Appellate Court overturned their convictions last October, citing legal technicalities.
This was one of the first “point 'em out, knock 'em out” fatal attacks reported nationwide, in which groups of teens attack strangers to try to knock them out with a single punch.
Newingham was riding his bicycle on Sawyer Street near Monroe Street during the afternoon of Aug. 24, 2009, when Johnson punched him in the head, knocking him out and to the ground. Newingham was robbed of his wallet as the mob kicked, punched and stomped on the defenseless Vietnam-era Army veteran.
After running off, the mob regrouped about an hour later and attacked Wilson, who they found on a bench in the Garfield Park pavilion. He survived but suffered debilitating injuries.
After a seven-day trial in Macon County Circuit Court, Johnson and Murphy were convicted by a jury of first-degree murder and attempted murder. Johnson was sentenced to 65 years in prison, Murphy to 80 years.
After the decision by three appellate judges, which said that the judge who transferred Johnson to adult court in 2009 should have considered advantages of treatment within the juvenile justice system, Johnson is repeating the steps he took after his first arrest.
At Johnson's preliminary hearing Thursday, First Assistant State's Attorney Nichole Kroncke questioned Barry Hitchens, the lead police detective on the case, on the witness stand.
Kroncke asked him if there were six witnesses who saw Johnson punch and stomp on the two victims.
Hitchens said some of the six witnesses told police they saw Johnson attack both men, some saw him attack Newingham, others saw him attack Wilson.
Branden White, a member of the mob, told police Johnson stomped on Newinham “10 times at least,” Hitchens testified at the hearing. White also reported that Johnson “stomped and punched Mr.Wilson.”
A woman who was at Garfield Park told police Johnson “stomped on the head of Kevin Wilson” about five times, Hitchens testified.
Associate Judge Gary Geisler ruled that there was probable cause to hold Johnson for trial.
Johnson is being held without bond in the Macon County Jail. Johnson and Murphy are due in court for a pretrial hearing Nov. 19.
White, 20, and twins Dedrick and Fredrick Rhone, 21, are all serving 20-year prison sentences after pleading guilty to first-degree murder for their roles in the mob attacks.