BLOOMINGTON - After delaying a decision for months, McLean County State's Attorney Bill Yoder said Thursday he will not seek the death penalty against a Bloomington man accused of killing two women more than a year ago.
Yoder said the families of Normal residents Lorraine Fields, 41, and La Keisha Tyus, 26, helped persuade him against asking for the death sentence before Guider goes to trial this summer for their stabbing deaths.
"The families asked me not to seek the death penalty. That combined with everything else weighed in my decision," Yoder said following a pre-trial hearing Thursday. "It was a close call. That's why it's taken so long."
Prosecutors say Guider stabbed Fields and Tyus to death Dec. 18, 2004, at his home in the 500 block of West Front Street, Bloomington. Their bodies were found the next day in a car in a nearby parking lot.
Guider had been eligible for the death penalty because he's accused of killing more than one person. Yoder said the families originally disagreed about whether he should seek death, but the Tyuses changed their stance last week.
Betty Fields, Lorraine Fields' mother, said she prayed to God for months in hopes that Yoder would decide not to seek the death penalty.
"I'm so glad he reconsidered. I had been praying about that a lot," Betty Fields said after Thursday's hearing. "Death is not a pretty thing. I don't care if you do it legally or illegally. I wouldn't want that on my conscience."
Guider, 41, is being held on $2 million bond. He is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and concealment of a homicidal death.
Besides the death penalty issue, Yoder and Assistant Public Defender Jim Tusek agreed to set a July 17 trial date at Thursday's hearing before Judge Ronald Dozier. Yoder said the trial would take about a week.
Yoder and Tusek had been in talks several months ago about a deal that would have allowed Guider to plead guilty to the murders to avoid the death penalty.
Such an agreement, Tusek had said, meant Guider would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Guider sometime in recent months apparently dismissed the deal.
He sent a letter to The Pantagraph from the McLean County Jail indicating there was no deal. "I never negotiated the life in prison deal," Guider wrote. "Nor did I say that I would plea to anything. I would appreciate if you would set the facts straight."
Tusek would not comment on Guider's letter when he previously asked about it.
While it appears Guider is on a path leading to a murder trial, Betty Fields said she has already forgiven him. She says her daughter knew God when she died because she's received several signs.
The first, she said, came the day she found her daughter. Police had been looking for Lorraine Fields because they had found her handbag in a house with a large amount of blood. So Betty left her home and began driving around Bloomington looking for her daughter.
When she found the car Lorraine had borrowed from a friend the day before, she drove to the owner's home. When they returned, the owner found Tyus in the backseat. When he opened the trunk, Betty Fields said she found her daughter and a spiritual sign.
"When that hood opened, I looked at my daughter's face and I had confirmation right there that she knew the Lord when she died," Betty Fields said. "I saw the peace on her face and I knew that she went with God."
Another sign, she said, came several months later when Guider's sister sent a letter, telling Fields how sorry she was about what had happened. Fields said she will one day try to meet Guider in person and tell him how she feels. But for now, she's let him know that he has been forgiven.
"When you're not forgiving, you're locked into that person for the rest of your life," Fields said. "The only way you're ever going to be free is when you learn to forgive. I can just imagine the terror and fear that man must have felt. We let him know we don't hold any hostility toward him."