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updated: 5/23/2013 6:11 PM

Both sides rest their cases in Lindenhurst Burger King trial

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  • James Ealy, 48, of Lake Villa looks to his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Keith Grant, during his trial Thursday.

    James Ealy, 48, of Lake Villa looks to his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Keith Grant, during his trial Thursday.
    Pool/Sun-Times Media, Thomas Delaney


Both sides rested their cases Thursday in the trial of a man accused of murdering a mother of two in a Lindenhurst Burger King nearly seven years ago.

Closing arguments will begin Friday morning.

Lake County assistant state's attorneys Jeff Pavletic and Stephen Scheller concluded their case after testimony by police officers who spoke with James Ealy, 48, of Lake Villa hours after he was taken into custody and days after Mary Hutchison of Trevor, Wis., was killed at the now-closed fast food restaurant on Grand Avenue.

Lake Zurich police officer Scott Frost and Lake Bluff officer Dave Thomas testified that Ealy told them, "You know what I did, your partner knows what I did, God Almighty knows what I did," in a bathroom at the Lake County sheriff's office on Dec. 1, 2006. He was at the office being questioned by the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force.

Ealy is accused of strangling his former boss, the 45-year-old Hutchison, using the bow tie from her uniform, then stealing $1,701 from the safe at the fast food restaurant.

She was found dead by a co-worker in the manager's office in front of the open safe.

Prosecutors said cash and coins were found in Ealy's apartment, though the total did not match the amount stolen.

Ealy has remained in Lake County jail without bail since his arrest.

Defense attorneys have said there is no forensic evidence linking Ealy to the murder, and ultimately the jury will be left with too many questions to convict.

Initially, the state requested the death penalty for Ealy should he be found guilty of murder, but that was changed to life in prison after the state abolished the death penalty in 2011.

That change in state policy, along with a change in judges, and a large amount of legal maneuvering, have resulted in continuous delays in the case going to trial.

This is the second murder trial Ealy has been involved in.

He was convicted in 1982 of the strangulation murder of four people inside a Chicago apartment. But a state appeals court overturned the verdict, ruling police lacked probable cause to arrest him.

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