A Wisconsin man was broke and so desperate to get his car out of storage that he robbed a Check N' Go in Waukegan and shot the Round Lake Park store clerk to avoid getting caught, prosecutors said in court Tuesday morning.
However, the defense attorneys for Montago Suggs said there is no evidence linking him to the 2007 murder, and that Suggs only confessed to the crime to end an interrogation that lasted four days.
"(Prosecutors) are going to have to overcome the burden of proof and show that he committed a crime at the Check N' Go," Keith Grant, chief of special defense for the Lake County public defender's office, said during his opening statement. "They won't be able to."
Suggs, now 29, is on trial on first-degree murder charges after he was accused of killing Melinda Morrell, 23, at the store on the 1100 block of Green Bay Road on May 21, 2007.
Assistant State's Attorney Eric Kalata said Suggs needed money to get his car out of storage after it was impounded by Winthrop Harbor police the morning of the murder.
After trying to raise money by panhandling immediately after his arrest on a driving on a suspended license charge, Suggs made his way to Waukegan where he stole a car, obtained a gun, then entered the Check N' Go and confronted Morrell, Kalata said.
After taking $2,000 in cash from the register, Suggs told Morrell to lie on her stomach in the rear of the store near the security camera videotape machine, then shot her in the back of the head. Suggs destroyed the videotape before fleeing, Kalata said.
Morrell's body was discovered by a customer about 5:15 p.m. that day, Kalata said. Members of the Lake County Task Force were called in to investigate.
They determined the murder took place during a robbery, $2,000 was missing from the cash register, and a shell casing from the weapon that killed Morrell was left at the scene.
"He would have got away with it, too, except he made one fatal mistake," Kalata said. "He got greedy."
About five days later, Suggs entered the Ma and Pa's Country Store on the 3700 block of Green Bay Road in Beach Park and forced the lone store clerk to lie on the ground while he took cash out of the register, Kalata said.
When he tried to fire the gun at the clerk's head, the gun "clicked" and the clerk went after Suggs, Kalata said.
Suggs ran out of the building -- dropping the gun after slipping on wet pavement -- and hopped into his Lincoln Town Car to flee to Wisconsin. An alert Lake County sheriff's deputy saw Suggs' vehicle, gave chase, and eventually caught him in the woods just over the state line, Kalata said.
Suggs confessed to the store robbery after the first day of questioning, Kalata said, but task force detectives began asking questions about the Morrell murder.
Grant said Suggs eventually confessed to the murder but only because he was coerced into doing so after four days of interrogation. He confessed when it became evident police would not stop the interrogation until they heard what they wanted, Grant said.
"Montego knew the only thing that would end the interrogation would be confessing," Grant said.
Suggs remains held in Lake County jail without bail.