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 allege.
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. 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.
At 11 a.m., Barger was brought to the Shelby County Courthouse in person, 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 DOC, according to Vonderheide.
A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for July 31 at 11 a.m.
John Curtis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org