Chicagoan pleads guilty in downstate shooting

 
 
  • William Thompson

    William Thompson

Published: 3/12/2009 3:46 PM

CHAMPAIGN -- A 28-year-old Chicago man who admitted killing a Douglas County deputy pleaded guilty to murder to avoid what might have been a lifetime behind bars alone in his cell, his attorney said Thursday.

William Thompson pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in a plea bargain Wednesday in Macon County court in the June 21, 2007, shooting death of Douglas County Deputy Tommy Martin. The shooting happened during a crime spree that included a high-speed chase and standoff at a bank in Arcola.

Thompson's co-defendant, Yusef Kareem Brown, has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges. Brown is scheduled to have a hearing in May to determine if his case is ready for trial.

Thompson had been considering the deal since November, but only made up his mind this week to plead guilty, said one of his attorneys Jeff Justice.

"There's a 90 percent chance you're going to get the death penalty," Justice said he told his client. "And while the death penalty may not be carried out, you're going to spend the rest of your life on death row, which is 23 hours a day by yourself."

Thompson spoke briefly in court, apologizing and saying his crime spree followed closely the anniversary of the death of his father. Justice said Thompson, whom he called a heavy user of PCP, never met his father, who died about 25 years ago.

"I regret doing what I did," Thompson said, according to the (Decatur) Herald & Review. "I was under a lot of pressure. My father was buried on June 20."

Douglas County authorities said the daylong crime spree began when Brown and Thompson fled a traffic stop on Interstate 57. The two then allegedly robbed a house, stealing a truck and van before one of them shot 59-year-old Martin -- who was responding to the burglary -- as they drove past him.

Douglas County State's Attorney Kevin Nolan has said he believes Thompson shot the deputy.

Brown was arrested after a high-speed chase.

Thompson went into the First Mid-Illinois Bank and Trust in Arcola and took several hostages. He gradually released the hostages over a period of seven hours before peacefully leaving the bank with the last of them and surrendering.

Martin died almost a month later in a Champaign hospital.

Douglas County Sheriff Charlie McGrew, a friend and longtime colleague of Martin, approved of the plea deal.

"I personally think we could have went to trial and got a death sentence, but I do not believe he would have ever been executed because of the current status of the death penalty in the state of Illinois," he said in an interview Thursday, referring to the state's moratorium on capital punishment.

Authorities say Thompson and Brown were driving an Infiniti at the time of the traffic stop that belonged to Arnie Graves, a 40-year-old Chicago man who was found stabbed and bludgeoned to death in his apartment the that morning. Grave's blood was found on Thompson's sock.

No one has been charged in Graves' death, and Justice doubts Thompson will be charged, given his life sentence.

"They haven't charged him yet, and why would they?" Justice said. "He can only serve one life sentence and he was not eligible for the death penalty in that killing. ... If I was a Chicago prosecutor, why would I waste my resources?"

Calls to the Chicago Police Department and Cook County State's Attorney's office placed Thursday by The Associated Press regarding Graves' death were not returned.

Calls to Brown's attorneys also were not returned.