PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A Peoria County jury took just 40 minutes to find a North Valley man guilty of murder; a verdict that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

Additionally, they also found Christopher Sanders, 45, acted in a way that was “brutal and heinous way, indicative of wanton cruelty.” That finding raises any potential sentence from a 60-year maximum up to 100 years behind bars. 

Jurors began to deliberate shortly after 2:50 p.m. and returned their verdict at 3:30 p.m. after two full days of evidence. Sanders showed no reaction as the verdict was read.

Prosecutors David Gast and Brian FitzSimons pounded on Sanders’ testimony earlier Wednesday. FitzSimons, playing off a statement by Sanders’ attorney that sometimes facts are stranger than fiction said “sometimes, the fiction is so bad that it’s laughable.”

“His story doesn’t fit common sense let alone the facts of this case,” the prosecutor said of Sanders’ testimony.

Sanders had told jurors he didn’t call police and brought Ellison’s body back after finding her in an alley because he didn’t want to get in trouble.

“Yet, bringing her into his apartment, that links her more to him than it would have been (if he had called police initially),” FitzSimons said.

Bart Beals, Sanders’ attorney, stressed that prosecutors didn’t prove their case, saying no one saw his client kill Ellison or that others could have done it. Gast dismissed that.

“He said he brought her back to his apartment to ‘assess the situation,'” Gast told jurors. “The medical professional that he is. He doesn’t call the police, doesn’t call an ambulance. doesn’t call 911 or ask anyone else to call 911 for help. All because he can’t find his phone.”

Sanders’ sentencing is set for Aug. 17 in the courtroom of Chief Peoria County Judge Katherine Gorman. His bond was revoked pending that hearing.


PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The man accused of killing a North Valley woman two years ago said he left her body in a wooded area to buy some time so he could hire an attorney.

That’s the testimony from Christopher Sanders, 45, who took the stand Wednesday morning to give the jury his version of events related to the death of 50-year-old Mona Ellison.

Sanders, who faces first-degree murder charges, said he found a body in an alley near his house in the 2700 block of Northeast Madison Avenue. He tried to rouse the person as he didn’t realize who it was. Once he did, he carried it back to his apartment, attempted CPR to revive Elison and then walked several blocks away to find people to see what happened.

Not once did he call police or paramedics, he admitted under a withering cross-examination from First Assistant State’s Attorney David Gast.

“You could have said ‘Oh my gosh, I found this body in the alley’ and called police but you didn’t,” the prosecutor asked.

“I suppose you could say that,” Sanders said in reply.

Day three of the trial highlighted the horrific and savage nature of Ellison’s death. Her body, a forensic pathologist testified, was covered from head to toe with bruises. She had several cuts and stab wounds on her body.

Her nose was broken. Her left cheek was broken and had a suture with a needle hanging from her face. Several ribs were broken and those punctured her lung.

And when Assistant State’s Attorney Brian FitzSimons asked the pathologist if Ellison was still alive when those injuries occurred, the answer said yes.

Ellison died as a result of being strangulated but the multiple strikes to her head, back, chest, face, legs, abdomen and feet were all contributing factors, the pathologist said.

Sanders’ murder charges allege he acted in a “brutal and heinous way, indicative of wanton cruelty.” That, if proven, can raise any potential sentence from a 60-year maximum up to 100 years behind bars. 

Answering his attorney, Bart Beals’ questions, Sanders explained that he called a cab, loaded Ellison’s body into the back and went to a wooded area in East Peoria where he left her as a way to buy time for him to find an attorney.

He said he realized it looked bad for him to find a body that was so injured. He also said he left the state to go to a relative’s house to ask for money; a notion ridiculed by Gast during his cross-examination.

“So, you couldn’t just use a phone?” the prosecutor asked.

Sanders replied that he felt such an ask was something that had to be made in person.

Both sides have rested their cases and its possible closing arguments could begin by mid-afternoon.

This story will be updated.