EAST ST. LOUIS – As Doug Oliver accepted a 30-year sentence for selling heroin, he dropped the first solid clue in months that an investigation of St. Clair County corruption continues.
At his sentencing hearing on Dec. 5, he told Chief District Judge David Herndon that he is cooperating with St. Clair County authorities.
Prosecutor Robert Garrison apparently hadn’t expected him to reveal his cooperation.
Garrison rose and told Herndon that because Oliver had made the statement in open court, he would confirm it.
The government places a high value on Oliver’s cooperation, for it recommended 30 years instead of the life sentence that sentencing guidelines would prescribe.
Herndon said, “For the government to recommend a downward adjustment from life is huge.”
Oliver faced not only Herndon but also the mothers and 12 other relatives of Jessie Williams and Jennifer Herling, whose deaths resulted from his crimes.
“I acknowledge what I did was wrong,” he told them. “I acknowledge what I did was very stupid and I’m very sorry.”
He turned back to Herndon and said, “I hold myself accountable.”
“I take full responsibility for all my past actions and I will continue to make amends,” he said. “I will sincerely try to reform.”
An hour earlier, Herndon had sentenced his mother, Deborah Perkins, to 27 years.
Perkins faced Herndon and said, “I am sorry about the tragedy of Jessie Williams. I didn’t know Jennifer Herling at all.”
“Jessie was a personal friend of mine,” Perkins continued. “We celebrated birthdays together.”
Perkins ran her home, at 20 Kassing Drive in Fairview Heights, as a drug market.
She bought heroin in Chicago for amounts from $20,000 to $50,000.
She distributed it locally through Oliver, Sean McGilvery of Belleville, and Eric Beckley of Centreville.
McGilvery in turn supplied the heroin habit of former circuit judge Michael Cook.
Federal agents arrested Perkins, Oliver and Beckley in January.
Agents arrested McGilvery and Cook in May.
Perkins and Oliver pleaded guilty in August.
Herndon at first set their sentencing hearings a week apart, but he changed the schedule for the convenience of the families of Williams and Herling.
At Perkins’s sentencing, Herndon invited family members to speak.
Jenny Thomason, mother of Williams, said, “They dumped my daughter’s body.”
“They show no remorse for their actions,” Thomason said. “Because of their actions I will never get to see my daughter again. I’ll never hold her in my arms one last time.”
Thomason continued, “She still gets to wake up every morning and know her kids are alive.
“I’d like this court to show her as much compassion as she showed my daughter.”
Chris Keel, mother of Herling, said, “I don’t see my daughter’s death as an accident.”
“I told her, don’t associate with them any more because they will kill you.
“Deep in my heart I know they murdered my daughter.
“If we robbed a bank and somebody got killed, we would all be in trouble.
“It was her house. It was her that went and got the drugs. It was her that gave the drugs to her son.”
Next, a victim witness coordinator read a letter from Keel’s mother, Jackie Keel.
She wrote that she gave a statement to Fairview Heights police on Oct. 9, 2012, showing Perkins and Oliver had a motive to silence Jennifer.
Jackie Keel wrote, “We were told we couldn’t prove anything, that it would be hard to prove.
“So we got busy talking with Jennifer Herling’s friends to prove Doug Oliver and his mother were heroin dealers.”
She wrote that Jennifer’s friend told agents they were watching the wrong one, and that they should follow Perkins.
“How many more drug related deaths are Doug Oliver and Deborah Perkins responsible that no one would come forward and stand up for what is right,” she wrote.
For Perkins, public defender Todd Schultz said, “Ms. Perkins is a heroin addict.”
Schultz said she was a daily user back to the 90s.
He said her motive was not greed or a lucrative adventure. He said she had childhood ties to Chicago and bought heroin there when it was difficult to buy down here.
He said she will be almost 90 when eligible for release.
Herndon said, “It appears that Ms. Perkins is not going to get out of prison.”
Marshals led her away and brought in Oliver.
Garrison said 30 years was appropriate because he distributed heroin for sex.
“These two deaths were not intentional,” Garrison said.
The families squirmed, shook their heads, and shared unhappy glances.
Herndon invited the families to speak, and Thomason stepped forward.
She said, “I don’t blame him for my daughter’s death but for actions after.
“He put her in his car and dumped her body. How could you do that to another human being?
“There are a lot more like him but he’s the one that treated my daughter like trash.”
Chris Keel said, “I’m highly mad right now. This man preyed on little girls with big hearts.”
She said, “This man’s 47 years old, older than me. Older than me. I’m so mad right now I could crack.
“U.S. marshals follow us wherever we go.
“From what everybody says on the street, my daughter was number five.
She said Oliver put food money on the book for her in St. Clair County jail, and her weight increased from 98 pounds to 200.
She said, “He fed her. He kept her in that clutch.
“It seems like when people die of an overdose, they just accept it. Well, I don’t accept it.
“She got a death sentence. I got a life sentence. Jenny and them got a life sentence.”
For Oliver, public defender John Stobbs compared Perkins to Ma Barker.
He said, “It’s his fault what happened, but there wasn’t any adult in the house.”
The families reacted with soft groans and little gestures.
Stobbs said, “It’s not life but it’s a long time.”
Herndon said, “Those are hard years. He will be a very old man by any standard.”
Cook, McGilvery and Beckley have pleaded guilty. They await sentencing.