An Aurora man who was 14 when he pleaded guilty to shooting and killing a substance abuse counselor in 2005, was in Kane County court Tuesday for the first time since an appellate court nullified his plea and 35-year prison term, effectively restarting the court case.
Garang Deng, 22, a Sudanese immigrant, pleaded guilty in 2009 to killing Marilyn Bethell, 47, after breaking into her Aurora home Oct. 31, 2005. Her body was found two months later along the Illinois Prairie Path near Butterfield and Kirk roads.
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Deng later tried to undo his guilty plea, saying he didn't understand at the time he would have to serve 100 percent of his sentence.
An appellate court panel last summer voided the 2009 agreement, saying a guilty plea required a minimum sentence of 45 years.
Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said last week prosecutors were prepared to move forward to trial.
McMahon could not specifically comment on the challenges of prosecuting Deng's case, but said the passage of time was not necessarily a hindrance.
"Many times, cases get better with time. We have witnesses who come forward and are ready to speak," said McMahon, referencing a conviction his office secured late last year for an Aurora man accused of killing his wife in 1990.
A message left with Ronald Dolak, who was appointed as Deng's assistant public defender, was not immediately returned.
Deng returns to court next month. He was being held at the Kane County jail on $2 million bail.