GALESBURG — It appears likely the Jenni McGruder murder case will go to jury trial in October.
Circuit Judge Scott Shipplett asked defense attorneys and prosecutors if both sides would be ready in October for trial for Jonathan I. Kelly, 28, who is charged with three counts of murder and gun offenses related to the April 1 slaying of Jenni McGruder, 26.
Knox County Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Kerr said, in response to Judge Shipplett’s question, “I don’t see any reason we wouldn’t be ready” in October.
Defense attorney Mike Bianucci, based out of Chicago, requested a continuance during Monday morning's pretrial hearing as discovery, or the exchange of evidence between attorneys, continues.
Knox County Chief Public Defender Dave Hansen, who represented Kelly in a 2017 drug case and has a pending petition to revoke probation, appeared with Bianucci on Monday as the Chicago attorney plans to talk with Kelly if he will also represent him in the drug case. Kerr was joined by fellow Assistant State's Attorney Andrew Stuckart for Monday's hearing.
Kelly previously has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder, felony aggravated discharge of a firearm and felony possession of a weapon (a .40-caliber handgun) by a felon.
All three murder counts carry a mandatory firearm enhancement, which make each murder count, if he is convicted, between 45 years to natural life in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Each is charged in a different way, which is why there is more than one murder charge.
Knox County and Galesburg officials previously have said McGruder, a 26-year-old mother of two, was an innocent bystander who was struck by a bullet fired from 40 to 50 yards away behind Seminary Street Pub, 105 S. Seminary St. Three shell casings were recovered by police behind the bar.
Galesburg police previously have said Kelly was involved in a family dispute early April 1 that began inside The Pub and spilled out to the parking lot that runs behind the first block of South Seminary Street.
Kelly's hearing had a special time setting Monday morning as more than half of the courtroom was filled with McGruder and Howe family members there in support of Jenni McGruder. A few T-shirts made to remember McGruder could be seen by those present.
Further, security was increased with at least eight Knox County Sheriff's Department personnel in the courtroom during the hearing.
Kelly is expected back in court for a pretrial hearing at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 26 with any possible motions to be filed and likely heard before that court date.
If both sides answer ready for trial at the Oct. 1 pretrial call, Kelly likely would be set for jury trial at some point between Oct. 15 and Oct. 26.