Deven A. Barger has been charged with first degree murder and intentional homicide of an unborn child in the death of Samantha Cushing in Shelbyville.
Cushing was six months pregnant at the time of her death, authorities said during Barger's initial court appearance via video on Wednesday morning in Shelby County Circuit Court.
Cushing died from a close-range shot to the face with a modified 16-gauge shotgun, authorities allege in the charges. Her body was found on the bedroom floor of a house at 112 N. Will St. in Shelbyville. The weapon was recovered at the scene, officials said.
A 3-year-old girl told investigators she "saw blood coming from her mother," Shelby County State's Attorney Gina Vonderheide said in court, reading the complaint against Barger.
Barger, 24, whose residence for parole is listed as his mother's house in Watson in Effingham County, allegedly told his mother Monday morning that he shot Cushing, according to the complaint. Barger allegedly told investigators the shooting was an accident.
Barger's mother called police and told them he was on his way to her home, according to the complaint. That instigated a pursuit through Effingham, Shelby and Christian counties.
Barger was arrested Monday morning in Taylorville, and the 3-year-old, who was in the vehicle with Barger, was recovered unharmed.
Barger later Wednesday appeared in person in court for a bond hearing. Judge Amanda Ade-Harlow set bond at $5 million. He must post 10 percent of that to be released, but Shelby County Public Defender Brad Rau said any amount is beyond Barger's ability to pay.
Shelby County authorities asked that Barger be remanded to the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections for security reasons at the Shelby County Jail. Barger has been out of prison on parole since December 2018 after convictions in Shelby and Christian counties for aggravated battery to a police officer, felon in possession of a weapon, and aggravated fleeing from police. Ade-Harlow agreed to send him back to prison while he awaits trial.
The hearings on Wednesday were characterized by heightened security at the Shelby County Courthouse.
"I imagine the extra precautions were for the severity of the offenses and emotions surrounding the case," Vonderheide said afterward.
Prior to Barger's arraignment, a call came in to the courtroom bailiff and it was relayed to the building security that the media would not be allowed to bring any cameras into the courthouse. Cellphones were already restricted in the courthouse.
Prisoners from the Shelby County jail are routinely escorted by deputies through the parking lot and across the street from the jail to the courthouse. Barger was not.
Barger, who has the name Samantha tattooed on his neck, was brought to the Shelby County Courthouse in person at 11 a.m., but even then security was tighter than normal. He was loaded into a police vehicle at the jail and driven about a block to an entrance to the courthouse with a walk of only about 30 feet from the vehicle to the door. He was surrounded by police.
When he arrived in the courtroom, shackled, Ade-Harlow directed the bailiff to put a chair between the defense table and the witness stand, backed up to the rail of the jury box.
"This is for the purpose of order and public safety," Ade-Harlow said. "I want you to be farther from the public seating."
People were in the gallery for the bail hearing, as well as, waiting for other cases to be called.
Barger sat motionless in his striped corrections uniform, looking straight ahead. Earlier in the morning via Skype, he sat at a table in the jail and had his hands near his chin as the charges and the probable cause description were read.
During the bond hearing, Vonderheide requested that it be set at $5 million. The judge agreed to that amount, citing Barger's previous criminal history as a factor.
She also ordered that the public defender would continue to represent Barger, unless he decides to retain another lawyer.
Rau requested a pre-trial hearing as soon as possible. Vonderheide said the state could be ready in a couple of weeks, but that prosecutors had to coordinate with the Illinois State Police, who are involved in the investigation.
The visit to the courthouse concluded with Barger, once again being placed in a police vehicle adjacent to the courthouse entrance and driven a block to the jail. From there he was taken into the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, according to Vonderheide. He's being held at Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro, according to IDOC.
In July 2017, the Shelbyville Daily Union reported that Barger, then living in Pana, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for kicking a Shelby County deputy in the chest and face after a lengthy pursuit. Barger and a passenger, Quinton L. Morrissey Jr., now 20, also of Pana, fled from Christian County deputies in a black Jeep on March 17, 2017 after they broke into a Lake Pana home, authorities told the SDU at the time.
Morrissey is scheduled for a September jury trial in Christian County, charged with the first degree murder of a 59-year-old man at Pana Lake in May 2017, according to online court records.
In the March 2017 chase, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office was dispatched to the area of 900 N. and 700 E. and were told that a shotgun may be aboard the vehicle. They joined Christian County deputies in the chase for the Jeep, which went off-road multiple times and eventually got stuck, Vonderheide said at the time.
The two Pana men fled into a nearby wooded area on foot, authorities said. Morrissey was apprehended about 100 yards away from the vehicle, handcuffed and placed in the back of a Christian County squad car, authorities said.
Barger resisted arrest. He headbutted the rear window of a squad car and kicked deputy Jacob Washburn in the chest and above the left eye with the heel of his boot, Vonderheide said. Washburn didn't need medical treatment for his injuries.
Barger's preliminary hearing on the charges related to Cushing's death is scheduled for July 31 at 11 a.m.
Cushing's funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the McCracken-Dean Funeral Home in Pana, with Leon Goff officiating, according to an obituary on the funeral home's website. Visitation that day is from 11 a.m. until the service.
Cushing was born April 3, 1997 in Taylorville, the daughter of Douglas W. Cushing of Shelbyville and Melissa (McKeig) Cushing of Pana. She graduated from Pana High School in 2015 and worked as a CNA at Heritage Health—Pana, according to the obituary.
She is survived by her mother, father and stepmother, Jeannie Cushing; daughter, Addison Barger at home; siblings: Levi (Heather) Cushing, Decatur; Savannah Cushing, Shelbyville; Sophia Weitekamp, Peoria; stepbrother and sisters: Jimmy (Brittany) Congenie, Shelbyville,; Samantha Congenie, Shelbyville; Lisa Cunningham, Shelbyville; paternal grandmother, Ruby Cushing, Pana; maternal grandfather, Glenn McKeig, Vallejo, CA; maternal great grandmother, Margarita Martinez, Santa Rosa, CA and aunts and uncles: Don Ritchie, Florida; Clarence (Tammy) Cushing, Herrick; Violet (Jason) Moma, Oconee.
The obituary said that memorials in Samantha’s honor may be made to the Education Fund for Addison, c/o Doug Cushing.
John Curtis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org