CLINTON — Two Wisconsin brothers, who were in Farmer City as part of the carnival at last weekend’s Heritage Days Festival, were charged Monday with stabbing and strangling a rural Farmer City man to death and stealing his wallet.
James and Alexander Jacquart each face five counts of murder and one count of armed robbery in connection with the death of Blayne Benefield, 21, early Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, officials are holding a “person of interest” in connection with an unrelated shooting Sunday night in Farmer City.
The brothers, employed by Big H Amusements, appeared before Judge Hugh Finson on Monday afternoon in DeWitt County Circuit Court in Clinton. He ordered that they each must post $100,000 to be released from jail.
State’s Attorney Karle Koritz declined to provide details of what led investigators to the brothers. Court documents accuse the two men of stabbing and strangling Benefield and stealing his wallet.
Koritz said Benefield was killed in the early morning hours on Saturday. He was found about 7:16 a.m. in an alley the 200 block of South Main Street.
Koritz described the crime as a “senseless act of violence” and praised the work of the Illinois State Police, the DeWitt County Sheriff’s Department and Farmer City Police Department.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Benefield’s family,” Koritz said.
James Jacquart, 25, of Manitowoc, Wis., asked the judge if he and his brother could be housed together in the DeWitt County jail while awaiting trial. “He and I are the only family we have,” he said.
The judge said that would be up to the sheriff, but since their arrests on Saturday morning, the two have been incarcerated separately. He also told the judge, “There is no way in God’s green earth I would be able to come up with the bond money.”
The brothers appeared separately in court.
Alex Jacquart, 22, of Valders, Wis., told the judge he felt the bond amount was “ridiculously high.”
Koritz declined comment on motives besides the theft of the wallet.
Meanwhile, a “person of interest” remains in custody following an incident reported at 9:17 p.m. Sunday in which a man walked into the Huck’s convenience store, suffering from a gunshot wound.
He was transported by ambulance to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, but his name and condition have not yet been re-leased. The store is on Illinois 54, about a half mile from Interstate 74.
DeWitt County Sheriff Jered Shofner said Monday there is no connection between the shooting and the Benefield homicide. He declined to comment on a possible motive for the shooting.
Mayor Mike Jenkins said the DeWitt County community of 2,000 people was stunned by the homicide investigation and Sunday night shooting, but the community is still a safe place to live.
“They were two isolated incidents, and arrests were made quickly in both cases,” Jenkins said. “Our law enforcement agencies cooperated with each other and everything was very professional.”
Jenkins said his thoughts were with the families affected by the tragedies, but he believed the majority of the residents handled the distractions well in an age where social media often drives rumors.
Farmer City Police Chief Andy Denno that the public for its help and pledged to keep people informed.
“The Farmer City Police Department realizes that many citizens are apprehensive and perhaps fearful following these recent incidents,” he said. “Our agency wishes to remind everyone that information provided via social networks and other unofficial sources are not always accurate.”
And if the criminal cases weren’t enough activity to fuel the talk in the local coffee shops, Imo’s Restaurant reported a fire early Monday afternoon. The restaurant, on Farmer City’s northeast side, sustained minor damage in the rear of the building.