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BLOOMINGTON — The Jan. 14 bench trial of a Bloomington man charged in a triple homicide was postponed Thursday to May 13 as the state waits for DNA test results and McLean County judges juggle a busy spring calendar of murder cases.

Mays, who is serving as his own lawyer, objected to the state's request to delay his bench trial. Assistant State's Attorney John Shim said the Illinois State Police crime lab in Morton cannot complete forensic and gunshot residue testing on evidence in time for Mays' Jan. 14 trial.

He has agreed to stand-by counsel on legal issues but will not receive help with issues related to trial strategy.

Citing state law that allows for an extension of a defendant's speedy trial rights if the state provides good cause, Judge Casey Costigan granted the state's motion to continue the trial. The new deadline for Mays' trial date is June 22, according to Shim.

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Judge Casey Costigan explains to murder suspect Sydney Mays Jr. his rights to a speedy trial during a hearing Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, at the McLean County Law and Justice Center, Bloomington. 

Lawyers and Costigan reviewed trial calendars for March, April and May with Mays in an effort to select a new trial date that does not conflict with proceedings in several other murder cases.

Starting in March, the overlapping witness lists of police officers scheduled to testify in at least three murder trials has created a tight court calendar for judges, officers and attorneys.

The Matt Isbell trial is set to begin March 11 in Costigan's courtroom. The 24-year-old Marquette Heights man is charged in the stabbing death of Teresa Ann Poehlman, 47, of East Peoria. The victim's body was found July 2, 2017, at Funks Grove nature preserve southwest of Bloomington.

Isbell recently turned down an offer of 25 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea to murder. Without the plea agreement, he is eligible for 20 to 60 years in prison.

Isbell's co-defendant, Christine Roush, 23, who is the victim's biological daughter, was sentenced to 40 years after she pleaded guilty in December 2017 to murder.

The Isbell case was investigated by the McLean County Sheriff's Department.

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Murder suspect Kirk Zimmerman listens during a hearing Dec. 18, 2018, at the McLean County Law and Justice Center, Bloomington. Jury selection began Monday morning in the case that accuses him or murdering his ex-wife, Pam Zimmerman, in November 2014.

Bloomington's police detectives, along with crime scene and patrol officers, who worked on the Pam Zimmerman murder case are expected to testify during the April murder trial of Kirk Zimmerman. The suspect is accused of killing his ex-wife in November 2014 at her office in east Bloomington after a long-running dispute over child support. 

Detectives involved in the complex murder case also will assist the state's legal team during the trial. The trial before Judge Scott Drazewski could last up to six weeks.

Still to be assigned a firm trial date is Brittney Mikesell, a Bloomington woman charged with felony murder in the death of her boyfriend, Cullen Hedrick. The victim was stabbed by a man acting in self-defense but Mikesell is charged under the terms of felony murder laws that allow a person to be charged in a homicide if a person dies during the commission of a forcible felony by the suspect.

According to police, Hedrick was swinging a machete and Mikesell doused a man with pepper spray at a south-side Bloomington mobile home park in early December 2017. Hedrick died of stab wounds inflicted by the man, who said he did not know why he was attacked.

The Mikesell case will be set on Costigan's trial calendar.    

The McLean County court calendar could fill up during the remaining months of 2019 as 10 other homicide cases, including two without arrests so far, make their way through the system.


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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McLean County Courts Reporter

McLean County courts reporter for The Pantagraph.

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