VALORIE EVERSOLE - Daily Union Reporter
SHELBYVILLE, IL. — The first day of the murder trial of a Herrick man concluded with testimony from the one who pulled the trigger.
Wayne Newlin of Herrick has been charged with three counts of First Degree Murder – Accountability in connection with the shooting death of Jeremy Morgan of rural Herrick in December 2011.
The “accountability” part of the charge means that Newlin is legally responsible for the conduct of another. In this case, Newlin is charged with the action of Michael Pease, who is serving time for the murder.
The trial is being held in Effingham County at the request of Circuit Judge Michael Kiley due to construction work at the Shelby County courthouse.
The prosecution presented testimony from several witnesses Tuesday, concluding with the shackled Pease taking the stand.
Pease is currently serving a 45-year sentence in Statesville Prison after pleading guilty to the murder in July.
Pease said that Newlin approached him in late December about “getting rid of Jeremy Morgan”.
“He (Newlin) said he would owe me really badly if I would help him get rid of Jeremy Morgan,” Pease said. He testified that Newlin talked about being frustrated with Morgan.
Newlin, Morgan, and Heather Thomas lived together in the same trailer located in rural Herrick. For a number of years, Newlin was step-father to Morgan. According to earlier testimony by Jason Morgan, Newlin continued to be a father figure to Morgan even after he and the Morgans’ mother divorced.
According to Pease’s testimony, Newlin began talking about “getting rid” of Morgan about December 22. Newlin told Pease that Morgan was beating Thomas. Pease said he had known Thomas in past years, having a short relationship with her.
“I don’t like that. I considered Heather a ‘sister’ and my mother considers her a ‘step-daughter’,” Pease said. He added that hearing that he was beating her upset him because his mother was a battered by several men she was with.
On December 23 Newlin gave Pease one of his own guns. Newlin also gave Pease the slugs and bird shot that were subsequently used. He told Pease that Christmas Day would be the time because Newlin and Thomas would be at Pease’s mother’s house for Christmas and Jeremy would be alone in the trailer.
“When I got to the trailer, Jeremy was not there. I called Wayne and he said to take things from Jeremy’s room to ‘piss Jeremy off’.” Pease said. He said he took a projector, knives, and crushed a dog cage after releasing the dog because the dog was an attachment between Jeremy and Heather.
The plan between the two men consisted of shooting Morgan, wrapping him up in plastic, tying concrete blocks to him and dropping him in an abandoned well on neighboring uninhabited Voudrie property.
Since the plan failed on Christmas day, Pease said that Newlin told him to ‘get rid of him by the end of the year’.
Pease testified that on December 29, while Newlin and Thomas were away from the trailer, he shot Morgan, dragged him into the bucket of a tractor and drove to the abandoned Voudrie farm approximately a quarter mile away.
While he was driving to the farm, Pease said two Shelby County sheriff’s vehicle passed him. He said he panicked and left the tractor with the body still in the bucket at the farm. He met with friends in Decatur who helped him dispose of the gun in Lake Decatur. He returned to his mother’s home to rest before running away. While he was asleep, the police arrived at the home where Pease confessed to the shooting and was arrested. He also showed authorities where he put the gun in the lake.
The prosecution also presented testimony from the victim’s brother Jason Morgan and several expert witnesses. The jury also heard the recording of the 9-1-1 call made by Morgan and photographs from the crime scene.
The trial continues Wednesday in Effingham.