Lake County man convicted of fatally stabbing Riverwoods teenager
A Lake County circuit court jury has convicted James E. Lewis of fatally stabbing a Riverwoods teenager in 2010.
Lewis, 43, formerly of the 26900 block of Route 134 in unincorporated Ingleside, could spend up to 60 years behind bars for the first-degree murder conviction. Jurors, who deliberated about three hours Thursday night, had the option of finding Lewis guilty of a lesser second-degree murder charge.
Circuit Judge George Bridges set Lewis' sentencing for June 5 and revoked his $3 million bond.
Prosecutors said Lewis was in his home on Feb. 14, 2010 when he killed John Herres, 19, after a dispute occurred over a marijuana purchase.
Lewis agreed to buy a quarter-ounce of pot for a group of teenage boys at his home, according to prosecutors. After suspicion arose about whether Lewis kept some for himself, prosecutors said., the suspect's girlfriend — the mother of one of the teens — grabbed a cigarette pack from him and stated she saw marijuana inside of it.
Trial testimony showed Lewis, who had been drinking beer from morning until the early-afternoon dispute, started arguing with the woman when Herres intervened. Lewis was accused of pulling a 5-inch knife from his belt and plunging it into the unarmed Herres' abdomen.
In his closing argument Thursday, Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Matthew DeMartini said Lewis didn't attack Herres because he was afraid the four teenagers had planned to harm him.
"What happened is they went face to face and he stuck him for no good reason," DeMartini said of Lewis' encounter with Herres.
But defense attorney Christopher Lombardo said Lewis was in his own home defending himself against a teenager who confronted him. He said Herres and the three other teens threatened Lewis before the stabbing.
Lombardo said Lewis called 911 soon after stabbing Herres and that the action didn't rise to first-degree murder. He said Lewis was on the continuation of a five-day drinking binge when he was harassed by the teens and his girlfriend.
"He's not going to win a fight against five," Lombardo said.
As part of the prosecution's case Thursday, jurors watched a videotaped interview that two Lake County sheriff's police detectives conducted with Lewis on Feb. 14, 2010. The video rolled while Det. Kevin Eckenstahler was on the witness stand.
Lewis said he started the day with a beer and cigarette at 8 a.m. while watching "The Untouchables" on a bedroom television. He estimated he consumed at least eight beers in the morning.
After going to buy the marijuana for the teenager with money they gave him, Lewis said on the videotaped interview, he kept some for himself and told the young men to leave his home. He said he wound up face-to-face with Herres.
Lewis told the detectives he was "drunk and stupid" when he pulled out the 5-inch blade and stabbed Herres in the middle of the stomach. He said he thought Herres posed a threat and demonstrated on the video how he thrust the blade at the teenager.
"I'm going to pay for it," Lewis said. "I know this."
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