Chicago man guilty of 2014 Bensenville slaying

  • Stephan Russell was convicted Friday of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery.

    Stephan Russell was convicted Friday of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery.

 
 
Updated 11/18/2016 9:45 PM

Stephan Russell now figures to spend the rest of his adult life in prison.

A DuPage County jury deliberated for just shy of four hours Friday night before convicting the 23-year-old Chicago man of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery in the Jan, 19, 2014, slaying of 36-year-old Bensenville tobacco shop clerk Hussein Saghir.

 

The four-day trial saw a key prosecution witness recant his story on the witness stand and Russell take the stand in his own defense to say he was at his mother's house on the night of the shooting.

But prosecutors maintained Russell was the gunman who killed Saghir with a single shot that pierced his heart and both lungs.

Saghir and his brother were closing Sam's Tobacco and Food Mart at 235 W. Irving Park Road around 5:45 p.m. that January night when they were confronted by Russell and Kenneth Bardlett.

Bardlett grabbed Saghir's brother, Ahmad, and attempted to drag him back into the store while Russell kept a handgun pointed at Hussein Saghir, Johnston told jurors in the opening day of Russell's trial.

When Hussein refused to re-enter the store, apparently to protect his 3-year-old nephew inside, Russell fired one shot from a black revolver over Hussein's head, the bullet lodging in the door frame.

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Hussein continued to struggle outside the store, and Russell is accused of firing one shot below Hussein's right armpit that pierced both of his lungs and his heart, killing him almost instantly.

The pair and a third man, Tremayne Davis, who remained in the minivan during the robbery, immediately panicked and fled to Chicago.

"On Jan. 19, 2014, after a full day's work, Hussein Saghir closed the doors to his place of employment only to be met by Stephan Russell and Kenneth Bardlett," DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said in a written statement. "Several minutes later, Stephan Russell shot Mr. Saghir to death after he refused to open the doors to the store in an effort to protect his three-year-old nephew who was inside."

Bardlett, 23, who has previous convictions for unlawful use of a weapon and reckless conduct, confessed to planning the armed robbery and, during multiple recorded police interviews, identified Russell as the gunman and Davis, 26, as the driver of the getaway vehicle.

On the witness stand, Bardlett changed his story to say Russell was not at all involved. Assistant State's Attorney Mike Pawl said his surprise testimony will nullify a deal he struck with prosecutors in March 2014 when he pleaded guilty to aggravated battery with a firearm and agreed to cooperate with police and testify against all co-defendants. In exchange, prosecutors said they would seek no more than a 20-year prison sentence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

During closing arguments, Pawl said prosecutors will soon be reinstating murder charges against Bardlett as a result of his testimony.

Prosecutors say Davis, before his arrest, also identified Russell as the lone gunman.

Russell's attorney pinned the murder squarely on Davis, saying Russell was at home on the night of the slaying and was not at all involved.

In March 2014, when Russell was arrested, Pawl said he told officers he "knew hanging out with these guys would get me in trouble" and that he "would only shoot someone in self-defense."

"That's a confession to the murder," Pawl said, "It tells you that Hussein Saghir is dead and he was murdered for absolutely nothing."

Russell's next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 16 for post-trial motions and return of the presentence report.

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