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updated: 6/5/2014 4:19 PM

Attorney says man guilty of Waukegan murder won't attend his sentencing

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  • Hezekiah Whitfield

      Hezekiah Whitfield

 
 

A 44-year-old man who was found guilty in April of killing a Waukegan business owner in 1994 said he will not attend his own sentencing next month, his attorney said Thursday.

Attorney Gillian Gosch said her client, Hezekiah Whitfield, of Chicago, recently told her, prosecutors, and Lake County Judge Mark Levitt that he refuses to attend the court hearing where he is expected to learn how long he will be sentenced to prison.

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Gosch added that Whitfield's sentencing had been scheduled for Thursday, but was pushed back to July 10. The delay was not related to Whitfield's refusal to participate, she said.

Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Jim Newman said the delay was mainly due to scheduling conflicts.

Gosch would not say why Whitfield was refusing to attend, but said Levitt told Whitfield the sentencing hearing will go on with or without him.

"Unless something changes his mind, I'm under the assumption that he won't be there and we'll just have to proceed without him," Gosch said.

Whitfield faces life in prison after being found guilty in April of the bludgeoning death of Waukegan business owner Fred Reckling during an armed robbery at Reckling's Grand Avenue appliance store in Waukegan in December 1994.

Prosecutors proved in court Whitfield used a cloth-wrapped gun to hit the 71-year-old Reckling in the back of the head, then took off with cash and the victim's wallet and car.

After a lengthy investigation, James Edwards, 66, was initially charged with the murder. He was later convicted and spent more than 15 years in prison.

However, DNA evidence collected at the crime scene cleared Edwards of the murder in 2012. Authorities were able to match the DNA to Whitfield, who was charged. He has been held in Lake County jail since his arrest in lieu of $3 million bond.

Edwards remains in prison for an unrelated armed robbery conviction.

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