funks

Police clocked entry to an area of Funks Grove Nature Preserve this summer after the body of Teresa Poehlman of East Peoria was discovered there by hikers. Poehlman's daughter, Christine Roush, and her friend, Matthew Isbell, are charged with her murder.

BLOOMINGTON — An East Peoria woman was strangled and stabbed by her daughter and left to die at Funks Gove because she threatened to tell police her daughter was a prostitute, according to statements made Friday by the lawyer for a co-defendant in the murder case.

Matthew Isbell, of Marquette Heights, and Christine Roush, of Washington, both 22, are both charged with first-degree murder in the death of Teresa Poehlman, whose body was found July 2 by hikers. 

Isbell's bond was lowered from $3 million to $1 million Friday by Judge Robert Frietag.

His lawyer, Alison Motta of Aurora, argued that Isbell was "merely a pawn and a witness" to the murder that was committed after Poehlman threatened to go to police about Roush allegedly working as a prostitute.

Hours before Poehlman was taken to the wooden area by the two suspects, Roush told Isbell she had to "take care of her mom because she was going to turn her in for prostitution," a move that could lead to Roush losing "all chance of getting her daughter back," Motta told the judge.

According to McLean County sheriff's investigators, Poehlman was staying at the same Bloomington hotel as Roush and Isbell at the time.

"I was connecting dots I shouldn't have," said Motta in retracting that the state had knowledge of the accusation, but letting the alleged threats stand. Authorities denied this week that they knew or told Motta about any threats by Roush.

In her recitation of large portions of Isbell's statement to police, Motta claimed that a third suspect helped Roush plan the killing and directed her to the remote area to execute that plan. The male suspect, who has not been arrested, "has hid bodies in the past," Isbell told investigators, according to Motta.

In his arguments against a bond reduction, Assistant State's Attorney David Spence dismissed Motta's characterization of Isbell's role in the killing.

"He's more than a witness to a murder. He's accountable," said Spence.

Isbell provided police with details of the slaying and directed them to key evidence, but that assistance came after he initially denied any part in what happened, said the prosecutor.

Isbell's role as the driver who took Roush and her mother to the nature preserve and his knowledge that Poehlman's life was in danger are evidence of legal accountability, said Spence. Because Isbell may not have struck the victim with crowbar, stabbed or strangled her "does not exonerate him of first-degree murder," said Spence.   

In his decision to reduce the bond, Freitag told Isbell that the seriousness of the crime warrants a substantial cash bond, in Isbell's case, $100,035 to be released.

Motta's interpretation of the evidence "is for a trial, not for this hearing," added the judge. 

In the courtroom to support Isbell were six people, including his parents and a minister, who would help the former Eagle Scout if he is released, said Motta.

A Nov. 13 trial has been postponed at Motta's request. Isbell is due back in court Dec. 15.

Roush was in court earlier Friday for a hearing on her mental fitness to stand trial. Defense lawyer Brian McEldowney said a psychiatric evaluation has been conducted of Roush by Dr. Terry Killian, but a written report has not been submitted to the court.

A Nov. 17 hearing is set to review the doctor's opinion. Roush also faces drug charges unrelated to Funks Grove murder case.

Follow Edith Brady-Lunny on Twitter: @pg_blunny

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Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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