A 28-year-old man has pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the grisly stabbing murder of a homeless man in 2009 in Woodstock.
Kyle Morgan, of Woodstock, was set to go on trial Monday on first-degree murder charges in the Jan. 19 death of Robin A. Burton Jr., whose body was found in Morgan's apartment in the 300 block of Leah Lane in the Prairie View Apartment Complex.
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Prosecutors were set to argue that Morgan, a former Arlington Heights resident, was eligible for life in prison because the murder was exceptionably heinous and indicative of wanton cruelty.
Instead, Morgan faces 20 to 36 years in prison when his sentencing hearing begins Oct. 17 before McHenry Judge Michael Feetterer. First-degree murder carries a top prison term of 60 years, of which the defendant must serve 100 percent.
Defense attorneys planned to argue Morgan, who has had numerous hospitalizations because of mental illness, was not guilty because he was insane at the time of the killing.
McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Michael Combs, the lead prosecutor in the case, had characterized the defense as "psychobabble" and said the crime was premeditated.
Combs said both sides had met and talked about a plea, but Morgan rejected it. That changed and Morgan appeared in court Friday afternoon and pleaded guilty but mentally ill.
"There is a sentencing cap of 36 years," said Combs. "I don't think either party wanted to go to trial. I did meet with the victim's family and they're satisfied."
Defense attorney Steve Greenberg had planned to call mental health experts during Morgan's trial, which was expected to last nearly two weeks. Instead, he now will call the same experts to offer evidence of mitigation at the October sentencing, which is expected to run at least two days.
"(The plea) eliminates the risk of Kyle spending the rest of his life in (prison) while ensuring he gets the mental health care he so desperately needs," Greenberg said. "I would have liked to try the case, but the client and his family felt this was better. Kyle is a deeply troubled, mentally ill individual."
After Burton's body was found, Morgan was arrested the next day in Nashville, Tenn., after he hit two pedestrians while being chased by state police.
He was sentenced to five years in prison, but under Tennessee law served a portion of that and is currently being held in the McHenry County jail.
Greenberg said Morgan has had mental health issues since he was 14 and has been hospitalized more than 12 times. Whatever prison sentence is issued, Morgan must serve 100 percent of it but gets access to mental health services.
In addition to physical evidence during trial, prosecutors also hoped to show the jury Morgan's MySpace page, in which he referred to himself as "Thrill Kill Kyle."
On the page, Morgan expressed interest in serial killers, listed "The satanic Bible" and "The Anarchist's Cookbook" as two of his favorite reads, and posted photos of tattoos on his back that said "Serial Killer" and "666."