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updated: 1/6/2017 7:19 PM

No bail in torture case: 'Where is your sense of decency?' judge asks

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  • Clockwise from upper left, Brittany Covington, 18, of Chicago; Tesfaye Cooper, 18, of Chicago; Jordan Hill, 18, of Carpentersville; and Tanishia Covington, 24, of Chicago, face charges of aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

    Clockwise from upper left, Brittany Covington, 18, of Chicago; Tesfaye Cooper, 18, of Chicago; Jordan Hill, 18, of Carpentersville; and Tanishia Covington, 24, of Chicago, face charges of aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
    Chicago Police Department

 
 

One of four people accused of torturing and threatening to kill a suburban 18-year-old contacted the victim's mother to demand $300 ransom during the hourslong attack, a Cook County prosecutor said Friday.

The four were ordered held without bail Friday after a judge found they posed a danger to society.

"Where is your sense of decency?" Cook County Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil asked the defendants. "Where was your sense of decency when you were allegedly committing the crimes against this victim? Where was it when his mother asked where he was?"

Accused in the case are Jordan Hill, 18, a former student at the Core Academy in Aurora and at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates who had recently moved from Streamwood to Chicago; Tesfaye Cooper, 18, a former Hoffman Estates High School student; and sisters Brittany Covington, 18, and Tanishia Covington, 24, of Chicago.

They are charged with aggravated kidnapping, unlawful restraint, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and residential burglary in an attack Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson called "reprehensible."

Cooper and the Covingtons are also charged with residential burglary. Hill is also charged with robbery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

It was Hill who sent the ransom message to the victim's mother, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Erin Antonietti told the judge.

On Monday, in reporting her son missing to Streamwood police, the Crystal Lake woman had described Hill as her son's friend. And Hill's grandmother, speaking Thursday, said the two 18-year-olds used to hang out together at her house when Hill lived with her in Streamwood up until two months ago.

But in the account prosecutors presented Friday, Hill was the ringleader in attacking the teen, who they say has schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder. In their account, Hill administered an initial beating long before the ordeal that was infamously broadcast live on Facebook and that led to the arrests.

The teen met up with Hill on New Year's Eve afternoon at a McDonald's at Schaumburg and Barrington roads in Schaumburg. The teen called his parents later that night asking to spend the night at a friend's home, prosecutors said. They consented. He made the same request Sunday.

But on Monday, he stopped communicating with his family. His mother contacted Hill through Facebook, asking to talk to her son but was unable to do so, prosecutors said. The family filed the missing-person report with Streamwood police that day.

In court, prosecutors gave their account of what happened.

After meeting at McDonald's, Hill, the victim and another person bought and smoked marijuana, according to prosecutors. Hill stole a van in Streamwood and they picked up a fourth individual, prosecutors said. They drove to Chicago, where the teen was left alone in the van for several hours. During that time, the teen's mother contacted Hill, who became angry and began beating the teen with his fists after taking his cellphone, prosecutors said.

They then drove to the 3300 block of West Lexington Street in Chicago, where the Covington sisters lived on the third floor, prosecutors said. The abuse began with Hill slapping and taunting the victim, prosecutors said. Hill, who prosecutors say was armed with a knife, and Cooper yelled and screamed at the victim, forcing him to make racially tinged statements that included expletives directed toward President-elect Donald Trump. The defendants are black. The victim is white.

Brittany Covington recorded the abuse and posted it live on Facebook. All four defendants are shown in the video, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors say Hill and Cooper ordered the teen into the bathroom and forced him to drink water from the toilet while punching him in the head. They subsequently bound and gagged the teen, placing a sock in his mouth, which they then duct-taped shut, prosecutors said. Hill is accused of cutting out a chunk of the victim's hair, lacerating his scalp, and stabbing him in the left forearm. During the assault, the female defendants slapped him, said prosecutors, who described the assailants laughing.

Prosecutors described the teen, on video, screaming "no" when one of the men threatened to kill him and approached him with a knife.

Downstairs neighbors complaining about noise provided a route for escape, prosecutors said. They first complained on Tuesday morning. When they returned about 5 p.m. that day asking for quiet, the defendants confronted them, prosecutors say. Cooper and the Covington sisters chased the neighbors downstairs to their apartment while Hill left the building, threatening to return with a gun, prosecutors said.

Cooper reportedly kicked open the door of the neighbors' apartment while the neighbors ran to the first-floor neighbors to call police.

During the commotion, the victim fled and ran outside where he was met by police, prosecutors said.

Several members of the Covington family, including the sisters' grandmother and aunt, wiped away tears during Friday's hearing at the George N. Leighton Criminal Courts Building in Chicago. A woman, apparently related to the victim, exclaimed "yes" and pumped her fist after the judge remanded the defendants to custody. Both families left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.

Cooper's brother, Twin Carder, was thrown out of the hearing. Outside the courthouse, Carder told the Chicago Sun-Times Cooper and the victim also were friends. "He was under the influence. High, drunk, whatever he was doing," Carder said of his brother. "The dude was one of his friends, knew him. Supposed to be, anyway."

Fawcett said Hill had attended Core Academy in Aurora and worked for a staffing firm, according to the Sun-Times.

Hill had enrolled at Conant High School in August 2012, according to Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211. He left the school district in July 2014.

Cooper enrolled in Hoffman Estates High School in September 2013 and left in November 2015.

Tuesday evening, the victim was treated for cuts to his head, face and body and a stab wound to his arm, and released from the hospital.

He is "in a safe place with his family. They only want to be private and nurturing to the young man," Neal Strom, a lawyer and family spokesman, said Friday. He said a number of charities have offered assistance to the family as well as therapy and rehabilitation services for the victim.

A GoFundMe page titled Let's Show the Chicago Victim Love had raised more than $64,500 as of 7 p.m. Friday.

If convicted of the most serious crimes, the defendants face up to 30 years in prison. They next appear in court on Jan. 27.

• Daily Herald staff writers Madhu Krishnamurthy, Kerry Lester and Jake Griffin contributed to this report.

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