CHICAGO (CBS) — The charges of felony murder are being dropped against five teens accused of an attempted vehicle theft in the northern suburbs that ended in a high-speed chase and left a 14-year-old dead last month in north suburban Lake County.
According to the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, an agreement has been reached with the attorneys for the five teens after consideration of the evidence and the wishes of the victim’s family.
Under a plea agreement, 18-year-old Diamond Davis, of Chicago, appeared in Lake County court Thursday afternoon. Prosecutors dismissed the murder charge against her, and she is being charged with felony conspiracy to commit burglary and a misdemeanor criminal trespass to a motor vehicle. She is expected to plead guilty to the two charges next week.
The cases against four other teens involved — a 16-year-old boy and three 17-year-old boys — are moving to juvenile court, and their murder charges will be dismissed. Prosecutors said, due to their age, they cannot provide further details about the charges against those four going forward.
All five teens were originally charged as adults.
Davis’ family showed support at her court hearing but didn’t speak to media. Erica Annon, the mother of Davis and two of the other accused teens, spoke to CBS 2 in August about the tragic incident.
“They didn’t mean for any of this to happen,” Annon said.
Lake County State’s Attorney Michael G. Nerheim said the initial murder charges did fit the crime according to state statue, but he “exercised discretion in this case.”
“When the investigation into the case was finalized and turned over to my office, we worked diligently with defense attorneys for all five offenders over the last several weeks to find fair and just charges and punishments that took into account the facts, circumstances, prior history, and ages of the offenders. We also considered mitigating information supplied by defense attorneys. My goal has always been to balance my obligation to treat these offenders fairly, while also keeping our community safe. I believe this resolution accomplishes that goal,” Nerheim said in a statement.
CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller questioned the severity of the initial murder charges.
“This is one of the cases where you say, ‘Hey, does this crime really fit the punishment of 20-60 years in the penitentiary for a kid?” Miller said.
The teens had been charged with murder in the shooting death of their 14-year-old friend, Jaquan Swopes. Authorities said a homeowner shot and killed Swopes after he caught them trying to break into his car last month.
Lake County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a home in Old Mill Creek for a report of an attempted vehicle theft around 1:15 a.m. on Aug. 13. The 911 caller and 75-year-old homeowner said he shot at the people attempting to steal his vehicle after he came out on his porch and noticed people in his yard.
Authorities said six teens were in the car — Davis, Swopes, three 17-year-old boys, and a 16-year-old boy.
The man, who has a valid FOID card and concealed carry permit, was armed with a small revolver and said two of the boys quickly approached him as he stood on his porch, according to Sgt. Chris Covelli, public information officer for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
The man said one of the two who approached him had something in his hand.
The homeowner fired several shots, one of which struck Swopes. The homeowner called 911 immediately following the shooting and requested an ambulance for Swopes, but the teens fled the scene in a Lexus reported stolen two days earlier out of Wilmette.
A “Bowie-style” knife was later found at the scene, authorities said.
Shortly after the incident, Gurnee police near Route 132 and Hunt Club Road in Gurnee were investigating a traffic crash when they were approached by the six people in a stolen Lexus SUV. The teens inside told the officers one of them needed medical attention, and a 17-year-old helped Swopes out of the vehicle.
As the officers were attending to Swopes, who appeared to be shot in the head, the four teens remaining in the SUV fled.
Swopes later died from his wounds.
Gurnee police, Illinois State Police and Lake County Sheriff’s deputies then pursued the Lexus, resulting in a high speed chase that ended just after 2 a.m. near North Halsted Street and West Randolph Street in Chicago. According to the state’s attorney’s office, the teens only stopped the chase because the vehicle ran out of gas.
The teens later said they didn’t stop because “they didn’t want to go back to jail,” according to the state’s attorney’s office.
The state’s attorney’s office also said a phone with pinned GPS coordinates of other homes in Old Mill Creek was found along with the knife, and the teens admitted they knew they were in a stolen vehicle and came to Lake County for the sole purpose of committing burglaries.
Authorities said the teens originally were charged with murder during the course of a felony, because Swopes was killed during a burglary.
“It is time for these offenders to understand the seriousness of their actions and face the consequences. If they choose to continue to follow the troubled path they are currently on, it will end in only one of two ways – either with another tragic funeral or with more involvement with the criminal justice system. My hope is they will learn from this tragedy, and because of their young age, take this opportunity to be rehabilitated,” Nerheim said.