Monday, December 27, 2010

Illinois court to decide on Fil-Am couple's murder case Thursday

CHICAGO, Illinois — An Illinois circuit court is set to hand down on Thursday (Friday in Manila) its decision on the brutal killing two years ago of an elderly Filipino couple in their home in Rockford City, also in this state, in an apparent burglary.

On December 30, Judge Ronald White of the Winnebago 17th Judicial Circuit Court is expected to issue his decision against the defendant, 26-year-old Ommarian Jones, for two counts of first-degree murder.

Jones was charged for allegedly killing Reynato Cardino, 77, and his wife, Leticia, 75, in their home in Rockford in the early evening of July 8, 2009. He was also charged for seriously injuring the Cardinos’ son, Reyle, 53.

Jones, who was arrested on July 16, pleaded not guilty to the murder charges.

According to earlier news reports, neighbors said that the couple was warm and well-liked, and had treated everyone like their own children.

While Illinois has imposed a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty, Jones may still be sentenced to death, as the capital punishment is still in effect in that state.

The standard sentence for murder is 20 to 60 years in prison, but defendants found guilty of murders involving an aggravating factor — such as the victims being over the age of 60 — can face harsher punishments, including life imprisonment or the death penalty, Deputy State Attorney Marilyn Hite-Ross of the Winnebago County had earlier said.

The decision will come after Judge White junked last month the motion of Jones’ lawyers to declare the Illinois death penalty statute as unconstitutional for allegedly allowing the imposition of a death sentence “without requiring the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (it) is the appropriate sentence."

Earlier, Jones’ lawyers, Public Defender Shelton Green and Appellate Defender Joseph Kennelly, had vigorously opposed the sentencing.

Judge White, however, conducted a “fitness hearing" on Jones and found him “fit to stand trial" after entering a “not guilty’ plea. The prosecution, led by Illinois state attorneys Joseph Bruscato, Marilyn Hite Ross and James Brun insisted on the sentencing.

Jones allegedly gained entry into the residence of the Cardinos while the couple was out for shopping, in what appeared to be a burglary attempt.

According to the prosecution, while Jones was murdering the elderly couple with “blunt instruments", the couple’s son, Reyle, arrived home and caught Jones.

A violent scuffle then ensured between the two, with Reyle sustaining injuries to the face and Jones fleeing the scene.

Jones was identified following DNA tests on samples of skin taken from Reyle’s fingernails.

Meanwhile, Jones’ mother Helen was subsequently charged with two counts of obstruction of justice and destroying evidence. She reportedly did not call 911 when her son showed up at their house after the incident.

Reynato was a retired mechanical engineer who worked part-time assembling bikes at Wal-Mart, while Leticia was a retired licensed architect who was a building inspector for Rockford.

Both Cardinos were natives of Baliangao and Sapang Dalaga towns in Misamis Occidental. — JA/DM/KBK, GMANews.TV

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