Piecing together the Hickory Street stranglings
By Tony Graf, Brian Stanley and Janet Lundquist Staff writers January 19, 2013 7:48PM
Adam M. Landerman (clockwise, from top left), Alisa R. Massaro, Joshua F. Miner and Bethany L. McKee | Supplied photos
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:43AM
In their last conversation — the day before he and a friend were found strangled — Terrance Rankins told Marcus Scott he’d “met some new people” and had a good time “chilling” with them just two days earlier.
Rankins already knew Bethany McKee, Scott says, but the three others in the group were new to him. They had a good time hanging out that Monday, Scott said, recounting the details of his final conversation with his friend of nearly a decade.
If Rankins felt uncomfortable with the group, he didn’t mention it to Scott. And, when they hung up, Rankins had a familiar assurance for his friend:
“‘I’m going to call you back, bro.’”
He never did.
The families of Eric Glover and Terrance Rankins solemnly laid their sons to rest last week, but their brutal murders jolted the city and created deep wounds. Exactly what happened in the home on Hickory Street has been left largely to speculation. Authorities are keeping their cards close, not wanting to jeopardize their case against the four suspects charged with murdering the 22-year-old men.
Still, what is known to the public is haunting.
Straight to voicemail
Rankins’ mother, Jamille Kent, said her son and Glover were close friends for at least five years. Glover even would come over and eat meals, just like a member of the family, Kent said.
“I felt OK when they were together,” she said. “I felt that they would make sure each other were OK.”
She said she last saw them together the night of Jan. 9. He and Glover left her home at about 7:15 p.m.
But when her son, who usually was home by 11 p.m., didn’t come back she tried contacting him. She couldn’t get through.
Kent said she kept calling her son because he typically called back — her next calls went straight to voicemail.
“I texted first and said, ‘What time will you be here?’” Kent said. “When he didn’t answer my text, I called him. His phone rang once and went into voicemail.”
The next day, Kent said, she called her son’s cell phone provider and discovered Bethany McKee was on the other end of the last call made to or from Rankins’ phone, placed at 8:49 p.m. Jan. 9. The provider, however, said that either the cell phone was destroyed or the phone’s card had been removed, Kent said.
Rankins’ mother said she had just heard that name, Bethany, the night before her son went missing. She called Terrance and asked him where he was: He said he was with Bethany.
The murder scene
Joliet police were alerted to trouble at 1121 N. Hickory St. after fielding a call from the nearby Shorewood Police Department.
Before 4 p.m. on Jan. 10, William McKee had phoned police in Shorewood, according to sources. His daughter, Bethany McKee had called and told him what had happened at the house, sources said.
Joliet police arrived to find a scene Chief Mike Trafton later called, “one of the most brutal, heinous and upsetting” he’s ever witnessed.
Police say they surprised three people — Joshua Miner, 24, Alisa Massaro, 18, and Adam Landerman, 19, all of Joliet — who were playing video games. Bethany McKee had left the house and, with her toddler in the vehicle, was headed for Kankakee when police there stopped her about 1 1/2 hours later.
According to authorities, the suspects had planned to dismember the bodies to conceal the crime.
“Without that phone call (from William McKee), there’s little reason (police) would’ve gone to that location to interrupt their plan,” a source with knowledge of the investigation said.
William McKee could not be reached for comment.
Authorities said the four suspects lured Glover and Rankins to the home, with intentions of robbing and killing them. All four are being held in lieu of $10 million bail.
As the four suspects were booked into the jail, they were asked routine questions, including whether they had thoughts of hurting themselves or others. Sources say both McKee and Massaro said they did.
‘Giving it to God’
As news of the killings spread, the Joliet community flashed with outrage. A large crowd of the victims’ friends and family attended the accused killers’ first court appearances Monday, publicly grieving the loss of their loved ones.
McKee’s father stood in the courtroom with his hand over his mouth while his daughter was on the video feed from the jail.
“My wife and I send out condolences to the families of the victims,” he said outside the courtroom. “This is a surprise to us, no matter what anyone says. We’re giving it to God at this point.”
Kent sat in a back row of the courtroom when the four charged with her son’s murder made their first court appearance.
That day, Massaro and McKee were each represented by well-known local defense attorneys. Miner’s and Landerman’s cases were assigned to public defenders. Landerman is the son of a Joliet police officer.
George Lenard, a Joliet attorney who defended convicted family-killer Christopher Vaughn, represents Massaro. Charles Bretz, a former Will County assistant state’s attorney, represents McKee.
Both Lenard and Bretz declined to comment on the case.
The case spurred State’s Attorney James Glasgow to personally handle the prosecution.
While she knows there is much more to the story, Rankins’ mom said she understands why authorities have been tight-lipped.
“They’re not telling us anything — which I’m respecting, because I don’t want this case messed up,” Kent said. “They know their job better than I do. I’m going to stand back and let them do their job because I believe that God is going to prevail.”
From past interactions and photos on social networking websites, it seems that Massaro, McKee and Miner were friends for some time.
Massaro previously dated Miner, and once, with her father’s help, tried to obtain an order of protection against him. So did another woman, Ivon Gurrola, who was with Miner on Oct. 29, 2005, when police found him in a hotel room in Joliet with a 25-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl dressed only in a towel.
The girl would later tell police Miner videotaped her having sex with Gurrola, and previously recorded her having sex with her then-16-year-old boyfriend in the motel room.
When police went to arrest Miner for child pornography, he struggled with officers before being handcuffed, police said. He eventually pleaded guilty to unauthorized videotaping and received a year on conditional discharge. Gurrola was charged with criminal sexual abuse, pleaded guilty to battery, was sentenced to 38 days in jail and a year on probation and was ordered to undergo sex offender counseling.
Despite their attempts to get orders of protection against Miner, both her and Massaro continued to associate with him. Miner followed up that child pornography arrest with arrests for burglary from a motor vehicle, shoplifting, violating curfew and residential burglary.
He was sentenced to prison for the residential burglary, though he ended up in the Department of Corrections’ boot camp program instead.
Landerman is still facing an underage drinking charge from December in Plainfield. Shorewood Police Chief Aaron Klima said officers have had “numerous” contacts with McKee over the years as a victim, suspect and habitual runaway. Records show Massaro has no previous criminal history besides curfew violations.
All four suspects are scheduled to appear in court again on Feb. 5.
Standing in a long line to enter the True Vine Missionary Baptist Church in Dixmoor Saturday for his friend’s funeral services, Scott reflected on the man he considered his best friend.
“I’ll miss his friendship. I still can’t believe this,” Scott said. “I talked to him that day. He was in a good mood, like always. I have so many memories of him. It’s hard to pick out one.”
Mourners attended visitation and funeral services for Glover at St. Patrick Catholic Church on Marion Street Friday. Humphrey Northington, an uncle of the All-Star free safety for the semipro Illinois Gators, was among the many who attended.
“I loved him. I really loved my nephew,” Northington said. “He was a nice young kid.”
Larry Hug, a Joliet city councilman who attended Glover’s funeral said the tragedy was “a horrific anomaly,” not representative of the Joliet community.
“This does not represent our community,” Hug said, “and now we’re going to come together in this community.”
Contributing: Steve Metsch