After more than five years, Ealy trial slated for April

A Lake Villa man who has remained in Lake County jail since being accused of killing his boss at a Lindenhurst Burger King in 2006 will finally have his day in court.

Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes said both sides should view April 15 as the “real trial date” for James Ealy, 47, who is charged with the murder of manager Mary Hutchison.

Due to a large amount of previous convictions, legal maneuvering, previous court decisions and the state banning the death penalty, the case has been delayed time and again, much to the frustration of Hutchison family members.

“You can’t imagine how frustrating it has been,” Hutchison’s father, Richard Dean, said after Wednesday’s court hearing. “Justice should never take this long.”

Ealy is accused of using his bow tie to strangle the 45-year-old Hutchison on Nov. 27, 2006, in the now-closed Burger King on Grand Avenue. Authorities say Ealy then stole $1,700 from the restaurant safe before fleeing.

He was questioned the night of the murder, released by police, then arrested and charged four days later. He has been jailed without bond since.

Assistant states attorneys Jeffrey Pavletic and Stephen Scheller said the delay in bringing the case to trial stems from preparing for a death penalty case, then addressing numerous legal hurdles involving Ealy’s past criminal record.

The state abolished the death penalty in 2011, which also caused delays for prosecutors and defense attorneys.

“It is rare for a case to be this old, but we want to make sure everything is done right,” Scheller said. “It’s a difficult case, but we are moving forward.”

If found guilty of the murder, Ealy could be sentenced to life in prison.

Shanes ordered both sides back to court Feb. 26 to review more legal guidelines and to ensure the case will go to trial as planned.

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