PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The frantic screams and panic in the voice of Levi Conway on a 911 call early Jan. 1, 2022, punctuated that any jocularity was gone from his New Year’s Eve celebration.

Conway, 41, was in shock after being shot and seeing his wife, Daniela T. Jackson, shot sometime around 2 a.m., allegedly by Robert A. White, a man he knew as “Little Rocky.” The two were in their studio apartment in the 2000 block of Southwest Adams Street, cleaning up after a party. 

His statements were among the first in the trial of White who is on trial in Peoria County Circuit Court for first-degree murder in connection with Jackson’s death and aggravated battery for shooting Conway.

Prosecutors Brenda McCavitt and Deborah Shelby argued to jurors that White wanted to be a “tough man” and opened fire on the couple after everyone had left. White’s attorney, Hugh Toner, told jurors during his opening statement that prosecutors didn’t have evidence to prove his client guilty given the inconsistencies in statements by witnesses.

Jurors heard a 5-minute long 911 call where Conway is emotionally trying to explain what happened but is unable to answer questions. He was heard begging the dispatcher to rush paramedics to the scene, saying his wife had asthma. He believed at the time she was shot in the arm and didn’t realize until later how badly she was injured. 

If convicted, White faces at least 45 years and possibly up to life in prison. 

What Conway said happened

Many of the people at the couple’s apartment were family and a few, like White, were friends. Everyone was engaged in pre-midnight festivities at their place before heading to a local tavern to watch the ball drop at midnight. 

Following that, people, including White, went back to Jackson and Conway’s apartment to continue the party. At some point, White made inappropriate sexual comments to two of the women there, prompting everyone to “call him on it,” said Shelby in her opening statement.

Screaming and shouting ensued before White allegedly pulled a gun. Conway jumped in the middle trying to defuse the situation. One of the women involved, who was hurling insults at White, was escorted out of the residence with the rest of the crowd following into the parking lot. White lingered a bit but left after a few minutes, Conway said. 

He came back, however, alone, and startled Conway who testified he was picking up trash while his wife was feeding their cat. 

Rocky, aka White, was angry, Conway said, and told him “don’t ever try to stop me from what I’m doing.” Conway tried to calm White down, saying they were like “family.” White seemed to get it, and walked away from the open door of the apartment. 

However, a minute or so later, he came, cursed at Conway and opened fire, Conway told the jury.

Jackson died at the scene. Conway was treated at an area hospital where he then identified White from a photo lineup later on Jan. 1, 2022. He also showed police several photos taken at the party which clearly showed White there and engaging with others. 

That mattered because after White left the scene, he allegedly shot 35-year-old Bridget Ross two hours later at 517 W. Martin Luther King Drive. She was pronounced dead later at a local hospital. White was arrested 40 days later and at first, denied being at the apartment on Southwest Adams but shown the pictures, he admitted he was there but left before the shooting. 

The second homicide of the evening

Prosecutors are barred from mentioning the other fatality which was 35-year-old Bridget Ross who was shot two hours later at 517 W. Martin Luther King Drive and pronounced dead later at a local hospital.

That’s because Toner filed a motion asking Circuit Judge Kevin Lyons to rule that the other homicide not be mentioned, as that could possibly sway jurors.

Peoria police learned of the later shooting while interviewing Conway at the hospital. When they arrived at the Landmark Apartments, which are located on MLK Drive, they found a man and a woman had been shot.

A witness had allegedly seen White running a flight of stairs after hearing gunshots.

Peoria police were able to identify White by matching up his physical description to a Facebook account with photos that resembled him and his nickname, Rocky.

It didn’t appear that the two incidents were related.