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updated: 10/21/2011 5:30 PM

Deng wants to undo guilty plea for 2005 Halloween slaying

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  • Marilyn Bethell

    Marilyn Bethell

  • Gareng P. Deng

    Gareng P. Deng


A judge will rule next Wednesday whether to allow Gareng Deng to withdraw his guilty plea for killing a Hoffman Estates substance abuse counselor on Halloween 2005.

Deng, who is 20 now but was 14 when Marilyn Bethell of Aurora was shot and killed, pleaded guilty in May 2009 and agreed to a 35-year sentence.

After he got to prison, Deng filed a motion to withdraw his plea, saying he didn't know he'd have to serve 100 percent of the sentence and that his lawyer was ineffective.

At a Friday hearing before Kane County Associate Judge Allen Anderson -- the same judge who accepted the plea -- Deng testified that he thought he'd only have to serve 50 percent of his sentence and that he was misled by his attorney.

Deng also said he tried to ask a question during the May 8, 2009, hearing in which he pleaded guilty, but he could not specify exactly when he tried to ask it and what his question was.

"I thought I understood then but I didn't," testified Deng, a Sudanese immigrant and former Waubonsie High School student who was accused of eight felonies in a 4-year span as a juvenile.

Deng's mother, Teriza Mayoun, also testified that the attorney she hired didn't take the time to explain the proceedings and was only interested in the next payment from her.

Assistant Public Defender Tom McCulloch said Deng had a "bad habit" of expressing a response that he thought the court wanted to hear and that the plea was not made voluntarily.

But First Assistant State's Attorney Jody Gleason noted that Deng had ample opportunity to talk with his lawyer in the 20 times he appeared in court on the Bethell murder case.

She also pointed to court transcripts in which Deng was told twice he would have to serve 100 percent of the 35-year sentence.

"You don't get to withdraw your plea because you go back and say, 'Maybe 35 years wasn't a good offer,'" Gleason argued.

Bethell, 47 and formerly of Downers Grove, was missing for two months before her decomposed body was found along the Illinois Prairie Path.

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