New trial for man accused in Joliet robbery, slaying
by Janet Lundquist email@example.com October 15, 2013 9:34PM
Monta Travis | Will County Sheriff's Office
Updated: November 17, 2013 6:24AM
A Joliet man convicted of killing an ice cream vendor in the city as a teenager during the summer of 2007 involuntarily confessed to the crime and should have a new trial, the Illinois Appellate Court has decided.
On Tuesday, Will County Circuit Court Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak set a trial date of Dec. 13 for Monta Travis, 21, on charges of murder and armed robbery.
An appellate court panel in May determined that Travis’ confession was involuntary, the result of an interrogation environment that included sleep deprivation and misleading promises of leniency by police.
Travis, who was 15 at the time, and a 20-year-old Joliet man allegedly robbed and shot the vendor as he pushed his ice cream cart down a residential street on Aug. 26, 2007.
Police found the body of Manuel Villa Gomez-Balcazar, 42, of Chicago, lying face down in Grant Street next to his pushcart, and he died at Silver Cross Hospital about an hour later. Joliet police said there were several people who saw the crime take place.
Witnesses told police that two young men — one on a bicycle, one on foot — approached the vendor, demanded money and shot Gomez-Balcazar after he gave them his cash, authorities said. They said one witness recognized Travis and identified him in a photo lineup.
His co-defendant, Curtis Russell Jr., pleaded guilty to a murder charge in 2008 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Travis was convicted of murder and armed robbery in a bench trial in December 2010 and was sentenced in March 2011 to 40 years on the murder charge and a concurrent 25-year term for armed robbery.
The appellate court judges decided that, during a fifth interview with Joliet police that night, Travis was significantly groggy. Police had awakened Travis after a roughly 20-minute nap, court documents show.
The court panel also found that police made “misleading promises of leniency” to Travis, telling him they would keep the case in the juvenile system when state law required him to be tried as an adult. There was no juvenile officer in the room during the fifth interview, the judges noted.
Travis is being held in the Will County Jail in lieu of $10 million bail.