BLOOMINGTON — The second of two suspects in the murder of a woman at the Funks Grove Nature Preserve has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in her death.
Matt Isbell, 21, of Marquette Heights accepted a sentence of 12 years for his role in the death of Theresa Ann Poehlman of East Peoria. Her body was discovered by hikers in a wooded area in July 2017 at Funks Grove, about 10 miles southwest of Bloomington.
Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Scarborough told the court Monday that if the case had gone to trial, prosecutors would prove that Roush, Poehlman and Isbell were staying at a Bloomington hotel in July 2017 and on July 2, 2017, Isbell witnessed Roush fatally stab Poehlman at Funks Grove. Testimony would show, Scarborough said, that Isbell drove the three to the spot where the murder was committed.
Later, he told police he witnessed the assault.
“Blood was found on the passenger side of his vehicle, consistent with the description of the events he described,” she said.
Isbell also discarded items such as clothing from the crime scene and led investigators to a key piece of evidence involved in the assault, according to court documents. What that item was was not disclosed.
Isbell did not speak during the 15-minute hearing, except to tell Judge Casey Costigan that he understood his plea and his rights to appeal.
Two first-degree murder charges were dismissed in exchange for the new second-degree murder charge, which was filed Monday.
“We are very pleased with the outcome and the plea agreement for 12 years in prison acknowledges the value of the defendant’s cooperation with investigators and his willingness to provide important information," said McLean County State's Attorney Don Knapp. "We also want to acknowledge the excellent work and dedication of the McLean County Sheriff’s Department throughout this entire process as well as that of Assistant State’s Attorneys Scarborough, Aaron Fredrick and David Spence.”
In Roush’s sentence hearing in January 2018, forensic pathologist Dr. Scott Denton testified Poehlman suffered at least a dozen stab wounds to her neck and chest, including two knife wounds that pierced her heart.
Authorities say Roush, of Washington, killed her mother because she threatened to report to authorities Roush's alleged work as a prostitute. Such action could have jeopardized Roush's efforts to have custody of her 2-year-old daughter.
Costigan denied a request from defense lawyer Alison Motta for a weeklong furlough before Isbell reports to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Earlier this month, Motta told the judge that Isbell’s mother had been diagnosed with cancer and likely would not be alive after Isbell serves a lengthy sentence.
Previously, Isbell rejected a plea offer of 25 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea to murder. A trial was expected to begin Aug. 19.
Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow
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