The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

April 22, 2014

Trial for last homicide suspect begins

Harris faces 5 counts of murder for each victim

BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL bhuchel@dancomnews.com
The Commercial-News

---- — DANVILLE — Circuit court proceedings began Monday afternoon in the trial of the final defendant charged in connection with Danville’s 2007 triple homicide.

Jerome Harris, 29, of Danville, is scheduled to appear in Vermilion County Circuit Court today for jury selection in his trial on 15 charges of first-degree murder in the triple homicide on March 25, 2007, in the 1700 block of East Main Street. Circuit Judge Nancy Fahey is scheduled to hear the case.

Work on the case was initiated Monday afternoon as attorneys for both sides handled pre-trial motions in the case, according to Vermilion County State’s Attorney Randy Brinegar.

Harris faces five counts of murder for each victim in the fatal triple shooting: 30-year-old Rodney Pepper, 21-year-old TaBreyon McCullough and 19-year-old Madisen Leverenz.

Police were called to the 1700 block of East Main Street, where officers found the 30-year-old Pepper shot and bleeding in the street.

Investigators later discovered the bodies of 21-year-old McCullough and 19-year-old Leverenz inside a nearby duplex apartment at 1707 E. Main St. Pepper had broken out the large window at the front of the apartment as he apparently tried to flee. The two women also had been shot.

Harris was arrested on March 25, 2011, in an unrelated drug case and was later charged in April 2011 in the triple shooting death. He has been incarcerated at the Public Safety Building jail since that time.

Harris is the second man to face charges in connection with the shooting in Vermilion County Circuit Court. The counts filed at the same time against co-defendant David Moore were dropped in November 2011 after it was determined Moore was an accomplice and not directly involved in the shootings of any of the three victims.

The incident was the first triple homicide in Danville since the 1970s.

One man has been found guilty and convicted in connection with the murders. Freddell Bryant, 35, was sentenced in U.S. District Court a little more than a year ago to three consecutive life sentences for his role in the shooting deaths. It took a jury a little less than three hours of deliberation to hand down the guilty verdict against Bryant, who admitted in a taped statement to involvement in the triple homicide. He contended, however, that he did not enter the home with the intent of killing anyone inside.

The federal grand jury indictment leveled against Bryant in summer 2011 alleged the murders were as a result of accusations about missing drugs belonging to Bryant.

According to evidence presented in the trial, Bryant used McCullough on March 24, 2007, to hold kilogram amounts of cocaine at her residence in Danville. Bryant learned at some point later that day that multiple kilograms of the cocaine had been taken from McCullough’s residence.

The next day, according to the evidence, Bryant took McCullough to an apartment at 1707 E. Main St. to confront Pepper and Leverenz, whom he believed were involved in taking the drugs from McCullough’s home. The charges contend Bryant brought a gun to the home and used it to shoot the three victims.