Crowder found guilty in Joliet double murder
BY JANET LUNDQUIST email@example.com September 27, 2013 1:26PM
Sjolante Q. Crowder / photo provided
Updated: October 30, 2013 6:38AM
A Will County jury on Friday found a Joliet teenager guilty of murdering two alleged rivals in what police have called a gang-related shooting.
The jury deliberated for about an hour before finding Sjolante Q. Crowder, 19, guilty of murder for shooting Adrian Knox, 17, and DeLasse Lanier, 18, to death on Oct. 23. Another man also was wounded in the evening ambush on Second Avenue.
“I am very happy with the verdict and I am waiting patiently on the sentencing,” said Lanier’s mother, Andrea Brooks.
Brooks hugged Knox’s mother, Andrea Knox, outside the courtroom.
“I believe strongly in our justice system,” Knox said.
About 6:45 p.m. Oct. 23, several people were gathered around a Jeep Cherokee parked in the 700 block of Second Avenue when they saw a black sport utility vehicle drive slowly by them, according to court records. They indicated that soon after the vehicle passed, a man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt walked up and started shooting.
As the group scattered, Knox collapsed in a driveway on the other side of the street, and Lanier ran inside a house on the block and collapsed, police said. They were taken to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, where Lanier was pronounced dead in the emergency room at 7:27 p.m. and Knox was pronounced dead 20 minutes later.
The 19-year-old man who was shot drove himself to Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Police arrested Crowder the day after the shooting in the 200 block of Richards Street.
Crowder looked down and silently shook his head as Will County Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak read the verdict. Afterward, a girl stormed out of the courtroom, which had 12 police officers positioned around the room. She could be heard screaming in the hallway as deputies attempted to escort her out of the courthouse.
There was a heavy police presence in and around the courthouse, as fights broke out throughout the week between people on both sides of the case.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors highlighted the several conflicting accounts that Crowder gave police about his whereabouts the night of the shooting.
“An innocent man knows where he was,” Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Fitzgerald said.
Defense attorney Robert Lewin focused on several eyewitnesses who could not identify Crowder as the shooter. Two people who said they were familiar with Crowder told police they were at the scene that night and saw him commit the crime.
Lewin also mentioned Crowder’s cellphone records, which showed he was using his phone about the time of the shooting. Assistant State’s Attorney Tom Slazyk pointed out that Crowder had a call that ended at 6:47 p.m. The 911 call about the shooting came in at 6:53 p.m., prosecutors said.
Prosecutors did not present evidence of the alleged gang conflict that police say led to the shooting. Lewin objected to allowing the information to be presented to the jury after prosecutors failed to provide photos of the teens with alleged gang members as proof of suspected gang ties.
Lanier and Knox may not have been members of the Vice Lords, police said, but they had a lot of friends who were. Crowder had told police he was a Gangster Disciple, according to the file in Crowder’s murder case.
A witness told police that, the night they were killed, Lanier and Knox were in the rival gang’s territory, according to court documents.
Bertani-Tomczak set Crowder’s sentencing hearing for Dec. 13. He faces life in prison.
“That’ll be one of the best days of my life,” Brooks said.