State's attorney reflects on swift verdict in Bartlett murder case
After two weeks of technical testimony about cellphone tower pings, a felon who made a deal with the state and no body of the victim, one could have expected a jury to have a lengthy deliberation in the August 2014 murder of Bartlett man.
Instead, a Kane County jury took about 2½ hours this week to convict a former Algonquin man, Gary Bennett, 38, in the shooting death of Keith Crawford, a 36-year-old father of five.
Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon, who was part of the prosecution team, said during his monthly media meeting that he was pleased with the verdict and credited prosecutors, local police and other law enforcement agencies for their hard work on the case.
"It was clear that the jury, throughout the trial, paid very close attention. There was a lot of sophisticated and technical evidence that could be very dry," he said. "This was a violent case. It was important that the jury hear all of the facts that were relevant. It's just so difficult to predict how long or short a jury will take. I want the right verdict. The jury reached the right verdict in this case."
Prosecutors presented evidence that Bennett owed Crawford money for drugs and killed him to erase that debt. Bennett and another man picked up Crawford from a party in West Dundee under the guise they were going to get money from Bennett's cousin in unincorporated St. Charles.
Along the way, Bennett shot Crawford in the back of the head while Joan Sebastian Vado-Bonilla drove and Crawford's body was thrown in a dumpster at an Elgin apartment complex after Bennett's cousin refused to take it.
The jury also found Bennett discharged the firearm that killed Crawford, which by state law adds a 25-year prison term to the murder sentence, which is 20 to 60 years.
This means Bennett's minimum sentence is 45 years, while the maximum is 85 years and basically a life term. He is next due in court April 20 for post-trial motions and then a sentencing date will be set.
Vado-Bonilla, 29, pleaded guilty to felony concealment of a homicide in December and is awaiting sentencing after testifying in Bennett's trial. The crime carries a punishment ranging from two to five years in prison, but probation also is an option.
McMahon said prosecutors have a recommended sentence that they will present to the judge. Vado-Bonilla is next due in court March 31.