LINCOLN - Nearly three years after his arrest, Louis Russo II has pleaded guilty to the murder of his 3-month-old daughter, Jule Russo.
The guilty plea on Tuesday came after an agreement reached between Russo, 22, of Mount Pulaski, and Logan County State's Attorney Tim Huyett. Russo will serve 40 years in prison and is not eligible for early release.
Russo initially was charged with six counts of first-degree murder in the baby's March 3, 2003, death. Five counts were dismissed in the plea deal; he entered his plea to the remaining count.
"The plea brings to a close a long investigation on terms that we can all live with," said Huyett.
Police reports indicate the infant was battered to death by her father after he became upset with the child.
An autopsy revealed Jule had pre-existing injuries from possible prior child abuse, including brain injuries and a healing clavicle. Russo admitted the baby's killing to his former wife, Miranda Russo, and his father, Frank Russo, according to court records.
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Russo also made statements about the child's death to Illinois State Police investigators Cynthia Robbins and Rebecca Dewitt-Early following his arrest in Clinton on March 8, 2003. The handling of that interview nearly overshadowed the murder charges after defense attorney Tim Timoney reviewed transcripts of Russo's talks with police.
In a rare courtroom scenario in May 2004, Huyett and Timoney both questioned the methods used by the two officers in their questioning of Russo. Transcripts disclosed Russo tried more than 17 times to end the police interview by exercising his constitutional right to remain silent.
In comments to The Pantagraph on Wednesday, Huyett had harsh words for the two state police detectives whose errors forced Huyett to dismiss murder charges against Russo in September. The charges were refiled several days later, but the prosecutor admitted the loss of Russo's confession hurt the case.
"The case was compromised when court proceedings revealed that Russo had invoked his right to remain silent on numerous occasions when interviewed by the Illinois State Police on March 8, 2003," said Huyett.
Huyett also noted the detectives failed to include in their reports Russo's attempts to remain silent.
"The investigators avoided criminal court for failing to accurately report the interview of Russo when they agreed to administrative sanctions in exchange for a special prosecutor's agreement not to convene a grand jury," said Huyett.
The case was investigated a second time by the Logan County Sheriff's Department before charges were filed again against Russo.
The sentence allows credit for 1,025 days served in the county jail. He must serve three years of supervised release following the 40-year prison term.