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Guilty plea in NIU student’s murder

Chaz Thrailkill gets 30 years for 2011 killing of senior at off-campus party

Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 10:10 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 7, 2014 1:26 p.m. CDT
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Chaz Thrailkill, 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the November 2011 slaying of Northern Illinois University student Steven Agee II.
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Steven Agee II, 22, of Park Forest, was shot and killed Nov. 23, 2011.

SYCAMORE – Although they say one of the links in their family chain is missing, the parents of Steven Agee II said they need to get back to normalcy.

Agee, 22, of Park Forest, was shot and killed about 2 a.m. Nov. 23, 2011, during an off-campus party in an apartment at 809 Edgebrook Drive in DeKalb. The man who pulled the trigger, Chaz Thrailkill, 21, of Markham, accepted a 30-year murder plea agreement Tuesday. The case was set for trial April 14.

“I am so humbled and blessed,” Steven Agee Sr. said of the plea agreement. “Now we can have peace and move on. The healing process starts.”

Thrailkill was sentenced to 25 years in prison for first-degree murder and five years for attempted aggravated discharge of a firearm. Thrailkill will serve the mandatory 25 years but will be eligible for day-for-day good-time credit for the five-year sentence. He will serve three years of parole after he is released.

If convicted of first-degree murder at trial, Thrailkill would have faced at least 45 years in prison because he personally pulled the trigger, DeKalb County Assistant State’s Attorney Phil Montgomery said. Thrailkill’s youth and the fact he had no previous criminal history makes the sentence appropriate, Montgomery said.

“He was 19 at the time, had no background whatsoever and was with the Marine Corps at the time this occurred,” Montgomery said, adding Thrailkill likely will be 46 years old when he is released.

Thrailkill was set to stand trial on the charges in a couple of weeks. Both the Agee family and Thrailkill’s mother were in court for a hearing on pretrial matters; court adjourned while Thrailkill talked with his mother before DeKalb County Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert accepted the agreement.

Agee, an NIU sociology major who was to graduate that May, was shot twice in the back and shot once in the arm, which then hit his chest, Montgomery said. He was later pronounced dead at Kishwaukee Community Hospital.

Agee was involved with numerous organizations on campus. His mother Kimberly Agee will attend a students’ choice award presentation at 7 p.m. April 14 at NIU’s Holmes Student Center, 340 Carroll Ave., DeKalb. A student will receive a scholarship in Agee’s name for his or her high achievements, Kimberly Agee said.

“I don’t know how to move forward,” she said. “We know Steven’s gone, and he’s not going to come back. This is over, and we need to get back to normalcy.”

Rhonda Thrailkill hugged and kissed her son goodbye after he was sentenced. Chaz Thrailkill completed basic training with the Marine Corps and was expected to fly to Iraq a day or so after the shooting, she said.

Rhonda Thrailkill described her son as a good guy who comes from a good family.

“He wasn’t a threat to the community,” Rhonda Thrailkill said. “He wasn’t a threat to anyone. He was very well-liked and well-loved.”

The Agee family thanked both NIU and the State’s Attorney’s office for helping them throughout the process.

DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack sat next to the Agee family when the plea agreement was read. He said the family worked well with his staff.

“They made us work hard,” Schmack said, “but they listened to everything we had to say, just like we listened to everything they had to say.”

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