Bail denied for Pingree Grove man charged in Wheeling murder and kidnapping

  • Ahmeel Fowler

    Ahmeel Fowler

  • Ja'nya Murphy's body was found Nov. 10 in her apartment at this Wheeling complex.

    Ja'nya Murphy's body was found Nov. 10 in her apartment at this Wheeling complex. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Ja'nya Murphy and her daughter, Jaclyn "Angel" Dobbs

    Ja'nya Murphy and her daughter, Jaclyn "Angel" Dobbs Courtesy of Wheeling Police Department

 
 
Updated 11/24/2021 6:29 PM

A Cook County judge denied bail Wednesday to a Pingree Grove man charged in the murder of his one-time girlfriend and the kidnapping of her baby daughter.

Ahmeel Fowler, 26, of the 1100 block of Daytona Way, made his initial court appearance after he was taken into custody Tuesday by Wheeling police.

 

He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 21-year-old Ja'nya Murphy and with the aggravated kidnapping of Murphy's 17-month-old daughter, Jaclyn "Angel" Dobbs. The baby was found dead in a retention pond in Hammond, Indiana; her autopsy results are still pending.

Fowler was arrested last week in Springfield, Missouri, where he waived his right to an extradition hearing before being sent back to Illinois.

Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Glendon Runk said in court Wednesday that Fowler and Murphy had been in an on-again, off-again relationship for the past year.

Fowler picked up Murphy and her child from her Wheeling apartment the evening of Nov. 8, and they drove to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg to purchase shoes for the baby, Runk said.

Back at the apartment, Murphy spoke on the phone with her current boyfriend just before 11 p.m. -- the last time anyone talked to her, Runk said.

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When Murphy didn't call her boyfriend the next morning as promised and all of his calls went to her voice mail, he became concerned. So, too, was her family, who tried to reach her, prosecutors say.

The family filed a missing-person report with police after she didn't arrive for her 10 p.m. shift at Woodman's Nov. 9. Police discovered Murphy early the next morning unresponsive on her bedroom floor, with signs of bruising on her chin and collarbone, Runk said.

A preliminary autopsy determined the cause of death to be homicide by asphyxiation.

A bag belonging to Murphy with her cellphone and ID card were later found in the Indiana pond, Runk said.

Runk said police investigators were able to track Fowler's movement through his phone, showing he was at the Wheeling apartment at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 8, went to the mall, returned to the apartment at 8:30 p.m., and stayed until 2:40 a.m. He traveled to the Indiana retention pond at 3:43 a.m., then returned to his parents' Pingree Grove home by 5:30 a.m., according to the geolocation analysis.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He left the next morning for his brother's apartment in Missouri, where he was apprehended at 4 p.m. Nov. 10.

A search of his vehicle yielded multiple bottles of bleach, a knife covered in bloodstains, and bloodstained clothing saturated with bleach, Runk said.

Authorities believe Fowler may have been attempting to harm himself at the Pingree Grove house. During a phone call to his girlfriend while en route to Missouri, he said he was suicidal and had something to tell her, Runk said.

Video surveillance also shows Fowler and the victims shopping at various stores in the mall, Runk said.

While the prosecutor said Fowler admitted to being with the victims, going to the mall, returning to the apartment, and going to Pingree Grove and then to Missouri, Fowler's public defender said there was no confession, DNA evidence or eyewitnesses, and the case is largely circumstantial.

Prosecutors also said Wednesday there was a prior domestic violence incident in which Murphy had accused Fowler of choking her on Feb. 14, 2021. The incident wasn't reported to police, and Murphy's parents didn't know she continued to maintain contact with him, Runk said.

Fowler also was convicted of felony unlawful restraint in a Jan. 17, 2017, case at a Northern Illinois University dorm room in DeKalb. Authorities said he struck his then-girlfriend, pinned her on the bed, knelt on her stomach, and grasped her by the neck. He was sentenced to 24 months of probation and community service.

Fowler is due in court again at 9 a.m. Dec. 10.

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