McLean County State’s Attorney: Recent guilty verdicts thanks to hard work

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MCLEAN COUNTY, Ill. (WMBD) — In a rare press conference, McLean County prosecutors and police took questions on two recent murder convictions.

Both killers, Sydney Mays and Hammet Brown are now facing life in prison for their June 2018 crimes.

Mays was convicted in January at bench trial by Judge Casey Costigan. Brown was found guilty by the same judge Monday afternoon, Feb. 22.

According to McLean County State’s Attorney Don Knapp, 2018 was a bloody year for the county with 11 recorded homicides. He said they have had three murder trials in the past few months, an “unprecedented” amount for McLean County.

“What we’ve seen in these cases getting to trial, is a cleanup of 2018,” Knapp said. “Actually, that’s how long it takes to get most of these cases to trial.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, Knapp and his co-workers stood with local law enforcement officers who worked together on both cases and answered questions about the crimes and trials.

“The main reason for [the convictions] is the great work that these people here do,” Knapp said. “It has a deterrent effect on the community when people realize if they get caught doing this; so far, I believe under my time, we don’t have any unsolved, uncharged crimes, we’ve been pretty successful. We’ve got a pretty good chance of convicting if you go out and do these things.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds was the lead prosecutor in the Sydney Mays case. She said much like all trials, there were times she thought the scale would tip the other way.

“We focus on what we know happened and we focus on what we can prove happened,” Reynolds said.

Mays was convicted of killing three people inside a Bloomington apartment in what prosecutors argued was a drug crime gone wrong.

Reynolds said in that case, they used social media and phone records to further tell the story of the events that took place. She said social media and technology have become a major part in most trials and cases.

“It can be beneficial in order to determine what their main motive is for saying what they’re saying, authenticating some of what they say,” Reynolds said. “In our particular situation, the timeline was a big deal and a lot of that was authenticated through technology.”

In an unrelated crime, Brown was convicted of shooting two people at a different apartment complex at a summer BBQ.

While the pair waits on sentencing, the state’s attorney hoped the press conference will send a message; commit the crime and they will get the conviction.

“It helps, but it never replaces the loss of a loved one,” Knapp said.

Sergeant Jared Bierbaum with Bloomington Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Unit said hours of work go into seeking justice for victims and their families.

“Obviously when we can get a court ruling that someone is guilty, it’s kind of a bookend to all the hard work,” Bierbaum said.

Knapp also said homicides have been down since 2018 with three in the county in 2019 and just one homicide within McLean County in 2020.

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