Friday, June 24, 2011

Below the Radar in Edgar County -- Mutual Interests of Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor and Others Working in McHenry County on High-Profile Cases

Same January 2008 Day ILSAAP Media Consultants Met Quietly with McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi in Itasca, Another Fire was Burning Down State -- the Release of Herb Whitlock from Prison. Whitlock's Ongoing Cases of Interest to Same People Working Now in McHenry County on High-Profile Cases.

Late in 2007, the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP), the Agency's contracted media consultants, and DuPage County defense attorneys Terry Ekl and James Sotos had mutual interests in a white-haired man sitting in a cell in the Danville Correction Center.

Herb Whitlock, after serving 21 years in prison for the murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads of Paris, IL, was about to be released. A 53-page decision by the 4th District Illinois Appellate Court was unanimous in granting a new trial for Whitlock, ruling that evidence favorable to his defense had been suppressed. The deadline for ILSAAP special prosecutors Chuck Colburn and Michael Vujovich to pull together a new trial was quickly approaching.

Minutes from the Dec. 5, 2007 ILSAAP Board of Governors meeting mentioned that Vujovich had traveled with Illinois State Police officers to Orlando to meet with a key witness not previously interviewed regarding the 1986 double homicide. ILSAAP special prosecutors David Rands and Ed Parkinson would be consulting because of their previous involvement in the case.

On Jan. 4, 2008, ILSAAP filed a highly-publicized Motion to Nolle Prosequi Without Prejudice for the release of Whitlock, signed by Colburn and Vujovich. While it provided freedom, there was no finality. The motion charged that Whitlock remained under suspicion and required additional investigation. Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune referred to ILSAAP's motion as "peevish" and "a shot of slime." "The idea that prosecutors still need more time to investigate one of the most investigated and repeatedly re-investigated crimes in state history is nonsense," he wrote. 

Widespread press quotes of Colburn and Vujovich on the prisoner's release reinforced ILSAAP's stand that Whitlock and his former co-defendant, Gordon "Randy" Steidl were perpetual suspects. 

Among the numerous media outlets reporting the special prosecutors' remarks was the Terre Haute Tribune Star. It quoted Vujovich: "Two people were viciously murdered and we are still committed to getting to the bottom of this case. We have always believed that the two suspects that were convicted -- Mr. Steidl and Mr. Whitlock -- were responsible for the death of those two individuals."

Together, ILSAAP's motion and press quotes may have later served as protection for a defendant or defendants in wrongful conviction lawsuits represented by Ekl and Sotos, as well as deflecting attention from other potential suspects -- suspects Whitlock and Steidl claim had motive for murder.

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