Police: Suspect confessed to killing Peoria nightclub owner

Matt Buedel GateHouse Media Illinois
Bryan J. Stewart

An acquaintance of a Downtown nightclub owner has confessed to stabbing him to death and setting the body on fire last week to cover his tracks.

Bryan J. Stewart, 29, admitted to detectives that he killed Todd Scholl, 47, late on the night of Oct. 2 in a storage room that Scholl rented near his establishments, then set the room on fire, police said at a press conference Wednesday.

Police arrested Stewart, who does not have a criminal history in the Tri-County Area beyond traffic tickets, and booked him into the Peoria County Jail on charges of murder and aggravated arson.

He has not yet been charged and likely will make an initial appearance before a judge Thursday to hear formal charges and have a bond amount determined.

"We are confident Mr. Stewart was acting alone," said Peoria police Capt. Mike Eddlemon, adding that other unspecified physical evidence also linked the suspect to the crime.

Emergency personnel responded to a fire about 11:30 p.m. Oct. 2 in a first-floor storage are of the apartment building at 105 SW Perry Ave., just around the corner from Scholl's adjacent nightclubs Berlin and Diesel in the 600 block of West Main Street.

Residents of the upstairs units were evacuated but unharmed, and a firefighter found Scholl's body. He had been stabbed multiple times and died before the fire was set, an autopsy revealed.

Police released a black-and-white still image from video surveillance footage showing a man they identified as a person of interest the next day. Tips from the public helped investigators identify Stewart as the man in that photo.

"We asked for everyone's help identifying a person of interest," Eddlemon said. "Having the public's help and being able to put that out there was tremendous."

Eddlemon declined to elaborate on a possible motive for the slaying or how the two men knew each other beyond stating that Stewart and Scholl were seen together on video shortly before the fire.

Stewart has lived in Minonk and Marquette Heights in recent years, but did not have trouble with law enforcement beyond traffic citations, according to court records in Woodford and Tazewell counties.

He has had only one traffic citation in Peoria County, where his wife has obtained three emergency orders of protection against him in the last year. She filed for a divorce over the summer.

None of the orders, which all were dropped after the weeks-long emergency period, alleged violent acts. She instead accused her estranged husband of harrassing and threatening behavior, though they already had agreed to joint custody of their children in the pending divorce.