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Peoria man pleads guilty to murder in Normal kidnapping case

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BLOOMINGTON — A Peoria resident pleaded guilty to murder Tuesday in the December 2016 death of a 41-year-old man during a kidnapping that started at the victim's home in Normal.

Danny Smith Jr., 30, was charged with kidnapping and murder in connection with the death of Maunds Bryant, who was critically injured after he was kidnapped; he later died at a Peoria hospital.

In an open plea agreement with the state that did not include a prison sentence, Smith pleaded guilty to a single count of murder. He is eligible for a term of 20 to 60 years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 20 by Judge Casey Costigan.

The family declined comment after the 15-minute hearing. Assistant State's Attorney Jacob Harlow also declined comment until after the sentencing hearing.

Smith was accused of kidnapping Bryant and Ray Magsby, the victim's stepfather, from the family home on Dec. 22, 2016 in north Normal.  

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After Smith forced his way into the home, he demanded a ransom from the victim's mother, who was ordered to get the money from the bank and then call Smith on a cellphone he left with her, said police.

The two men were then kidnapped and taken to a home in Peoria where Magsby was able to escape and find a neighbor and call authorities. Bryant, who suffered from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, suffered a serious head injury when he fell at the home, said authorities. 

Police found Bryant in the basement of the home and transported him to the hospital where he died the following day.

Additional charges of home invasion, residential burglary, armed robbery and aggravated vehicular hijacking were dismissed Tuesday in the plea agreement.

Aggravated kidnapping charges are pending in Peoria County.

According to police, Smith was aware the Magsbys had recently won a state lottery prize and went to the home to steal money.

Court documents put the state lottery winnings at $420,000 and the ransom demanded by Smith at $25,000. 

Smith allegedly told the Magsbys during the incident he had been watching their home for several weeks before the attack, according to details disclosed in search warrants filed in the case.

A search of the Peoria and Normal locations turned up duct tape and other items related to the crimes, including several weapons and ammunition in Peoria, according to the warrants. 

Photos: 2018 McLean County jail mug shots

Contact Edith Brady-Lunny at (309) 820-3276. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_blunny


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