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Monday, January 27, 2020

Madison County SA requests federal review of three homicides to impose death penalty

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By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Jan 14, 2020

Gibbons speaks at a press conference following Gori's murder.

Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons has requested federal review of three recent homicides in order to seek the federal death penalty against out-of-state criminals who came to Madison County to “execute their victims.”

“I am seeking the review of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring the most severe cases justice,” Gibbons stated. “When violent offenders come from out-of-state to commit crimes in our county, the highest sentence they will receive is life in prison. By requesting the resources of the federal government, it is my purpose to seek the ultimate justice for these victims and their families. I want to ensure the safety of the Citizens of Madison County from the criminals traveling to our communities.”

In a letter sent to U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft on Jan. 13, Gibbons requested federal review for prosecution under the Federal First Degree Murder Statute or any other applicable statute which would allow the federal death penalty as a sentence for “individuals who committed these brutal, interstate murders.”

Gibbons requested review of a triple homicide in Bethalto on Dec. 19, the Jan. 4 murder of asbestos attorney Randy Gori in Edwardsville, and a Jan. 8 homicide in Granite City.

"The Citizens of Madison County have long suffered from an invasion of criminals traveling to our county to commit crimes against individuals, businesses, and the community at large," stated a press release. 

In regards to the first case, defendants Brady Witcher, 41, and Brittany McMillan, 28, allegedly set out on a multi-state crime spree beginning Dec. 13 in Birmingham, Ala., when they kidnapped and murdered Kellie Ann Hughes, 31. They allegedly went on to commit additional armed robberies, kidnappings and auto thefts in Birmingham and Clarksville, Tenn.

The pair allegedly ended their crime spree on Dec. 19 when they shot and killed Shari Yates, 59, her son Andrew Brooks, 30, and another man John McMillian, 32, in a Bethalto home. They fled in one victim’s car to Hazelwood, Mo., where they were arrested. The defendants and the victims knew each other but were not related. 

Witcher is charged with first degree murder, armed robbery, aggravated vehicular hijacking, and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. McMillan is charged with first degree murder, armed robbery, and aggravated vehicular hijacking.

During a press conference following the arrest of Witcher and McMillan, first assistant State’s Attorney Crystal Uhe described the crime spree as “a complete reign of terror” and said she planned to seek life in prison for each defendant.

On Jan. 4, defendant Timothy Banowetz allegedly traveled from Missouri to a secluded location near a rural Edwardsville home belonging to Gori. Banowetz is accused of forcefully restraining and threatening Gori and two minors using a knife. The victims were then taken into the home where Gori was cut and stabbed, resulting in his death, according to the letter Gibbons sent Weinhoeft.

The crime was allegedly interrupted when a woman arrived at the home, causing Banowetz to flee in Gori’s 2020 Rolls Royce Cullinan. Banowetz was found uninjured approximately 1,200 feet away in a wooded area by Major Case Squad officers.

Banowetz is charged with first degree murder, armed robbery, auto theft and aggravated unlawful restraint.

Gibbons had previously said during a press conference following Gori’s murder that criminals who come to Madison County to commit violent crimes will “get Madison County justice.”

“And true justice will be served in this case,” he said at the press conference. “This defendant will see the rest of his life behind bars if we have anything to say about it.”

Then on Jan. 8, defendants Kadeem Noland, 27, and Christine Mills, 34, were allegedly staying in St. Louis when they traveled in a vehicle to the Granite City home of Jason Thomas, 36. When Thomas entered his home, he was shot to death just inside the front door. The defendants allegedly returned to their vehicle and fled back to St. Louis, according to the letter Gibbons sent Weinhoeft.

Noland is charged with first degree murder and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. Mills is charged with first degree murder.

The State of Illinois does not allow the death penalty, but the sentence is available under federal law for those found guilty of first degree murder as a federal crime.

“Since 2011, I no longer have available to me the ultimate punishment for the most brutal and heinous crimes,” Gibbons wrote in his letter to Weinhoeft. “The United States Department of Justice, however, still has the power to seek a sentence of death for such crimes. For that reason, and for the safety and security of the Citizens of Madison County, I implore you to take up the charge and seek the ultimate justice which is so truly deserved by the victims of these horrible crimes and by all the good people of Madison County.”

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