GIBSON CITY - As auxiliary public defender, attorney Bill Dueringer has been involved in some of Ford County's more memorable criminal cases of the past 15 years.
From murder to arson, Dueringer has represented clients charged with a wide range of offenses. But he will not be doing it anymore after Circuit Judge Steve Pacey opted not to reappoint him.
The auxiliary public defender is appointed when the public defender (Harvey Welch of Urbana) is not able to represent a client.
"It's set on a two-track system to eliminate conflict of interest," Dueringer said.
"Generally, the public defender is appointed to represent people who can't afford (counsel). The typical procedure is the person comes into court and says they can't afford a lawyer. They fill out the affidavit, the judge reviews it and decides whether the public defender is appointed. It has to be a case where jail is a possibility.
"I think both Judge (William) Roberts and Judge Pacey have bent over backwards to see the people are represented. I can't recall a case when the judge has denied (public defender representation)."
A look back
Dueringer, who is 60, looked back at some of the cases that stand out during his 10½-year tenure.
One of his first high-profile cases was the case of Robert Peeler, who was charged with reckless homicide and driving under the influence following the traffic death of a young woman after Peeler failed to stop at a stop sign at Illinois 9 near Clarence.
The jury convicted Peeler of reckless homicide and found him innocent of DUI, but a surprise was in store.
Dueringer filed "the usual post-trial motions not expecting any miracle to occur," he recalled, "but Judge Roberts said there was error in the proceedings and authorized a new trial.
"After that, (State's Attorney Tony Lee) and I came to a pretty quick agreement for a stop sign violation and a big fine," Dueringer said.
The family was not pleased with the judge's order. "The girl's father showed up at the courthouse with a gun," Dueringer said. "The bailiff was called, and they took care of the situation."
Dueringer also represented Jeannette Dalton, one of the first Illinois residents charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person. The new state statute had gone into effect just 51 days earlier.
Dalton was acquitted of transferring $5,100 into her bank account from her mother-in-law's account.
Farmer loses sight
In another case, Lawrence Gordon, a bachelor farmer from rural Gibson City, lost his eyesight when a Sibley youth broke into his house and hit him over the head with a ball bat. The youth and Chastity Deason of Gibson City were charged with home invasion and attempted murder, both Class X felonies.
Dueringer represented Deason, who was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison. An attempted murder charge against Deason was thrown out on appeal.
Deason has been out of prison since 1997. "She's always maintained her innocence," Dueringer said. "She told me she's a year and a half away from getting her college degree, which is good."
In a "happy ending" of sorts, doctors were able to restore Gordon's sight.
The ending was not a happy one for Don and Kathleen Miller of Paxton, accused of torching their house for the insurance money.
"They had grinding poverty," Dueringer said. "They had their gas turned off all summer. It kind of gave you a taste of how some people have to live. I think (the fire) occurred like in early September."
The Millers were convicted and sentenced to probation.
An even sadder ending played out in the Craig Little murder case.
Dueringer represented his second cousin once removed, Carl Dueringer, who with his girlfriend, Angela Little, and Anthony Jennings were responsible for the shotgun slaying of Angela Little's estranged husband.
Carl Dueringer pleaded guilty and received a 50-year prison sentence. Both Angela Little and Jennings also received lengthy prison sentences.
An early meth case
In a case affirming that one can't judge a book by its cover, Kim Busing was charged in one of Ford County's first methamphetamine manufacturing cases. Dueringer represented Busing, who was convicted along with two companions.
"She was a very attractive, well-spoken young woman," said Dueringer said. "It was hard for me to think that she would get involved in that."
Dueringer will continue his private practice with the law firm Middleton, Middleton and Dueringer in Gibson City, and said he will remember with fondness his work for the county.
"I'll miss this job," he said. "I had a lot of fun with it. You meet all sorts of people."