Reporting Bob Roberts
WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) – After seven years in prison, a former Mundelein woman is being allowed to withdraw her guilty plea and go to trial in a sledgehammer attack on her ex-husband and his new wife.
Lake County prosecutors had nothing but circumstantial evidence against Sandra Rogers, except for a message she allegedly sent through a guard to her co-defendant, Jonathan McMeekin.
But appeals attorney Ralph Strathmann said a state’s attorney’s investigator determined at the time that she never told the guard to say she was sorry.
“That determination that there was no such apology was then never passed along to the defense attorney,:” Strathmann said. “Sandra made it very clear that the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, was the fafct that — true or not — the state was going to introduce evidence that she apologized.”
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Lake County Judge John Phillips blamed both sides for their handling of the original case. The prosecutors who handled the original case, George Strickland and Christopher Stride, are now judges.
Strathmann said he considers it the right call. Prosecutor Patricia Fix said the state will be prepared to try the case, although she said the delay in going to trial does not help the prosecution.
“Unlike wine, evidence does not age as well,” she said.
The victims were in the courtroom for the hearing, and said that they are taking it hard.
Rogers is scheduled to appear before Judge Phillips next Tuesday, May 8. Although he could set bond at that time, Strathmann said he considered it unlikely.
He said Rogers is indigent and said he did not expect Judge Phillips to set a recognizance bond in an attempted murder case. Rogers’ original bond was $3 million, and Strathmann said she never made bail before trial.
Prosecutors said at the time of sentencing that Rogers and McMeekin drove to her ex-husband’s Lincolnshire home May 19, 2003, as he and his new wife slept and struck them with a sledgehammer numerous times.
Both entered pleas of guilty. Rogers received a 30 year sentence, while McMeekin was sentenced to 20 years.
Strathmann said he did not expect to be able to tell Rogers that she will go to trial until a conference scheduled for Thursday. She will be transferred from the Dwight Correctional Center to the Lake County Jail for trial.