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Jurors deliberating in University Heights armed robbery trial

Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 3:33 p.m. CDT
Caption
Demond Hunt, 22
Caption
Mariah N. Romero, 22

SYCAMORE – Jurors are deliberating the fate of a 22-year-old Matteson man accused of robbing two DeKalb apartment office employees at gunpoint in November.

If convicted of armed robbery and aggravated battery, Demond Hunt, of the 3700 block of 214th Place, would be sentenced to between 21 and 75 years in prison.

During the two-day trial, prosecutors tried to prove a masked Hunt burst into the office at University Heights about 4 p.m. Nov. 27, pointed a gun at the two women working there and demanded money from the safe. When they told him they didn't have access to the safe, he hit one across the face and made off with a cellphone and a purse containing a wedding ring.

Police found the stolen cellphone in Hunt's girlfriend's University Heights apartment, along with a loaded gun and Hunt's wallet, DeKalb police detective Paul Mott testified Tuesday. A DeKalb County jail officer found a wedding band the victim identified as hers in Hunt's cargo pants pocket after he was arrested Dec. 5.

The girlfriend - Mariah Romero, 22, now of University Park - testified against Hunt on Monday. In exchange for her truthful testimony, prosecutors promised to drop the armed robbery charge against her, as well as an unrelated retail theft charge, and allow her to plead guilty to obstructing justice and serve a year of conditional discharge, which is a type of non-reporting probation. Romero is next due in court April 29.

During closing arguments Tuesday, Assistant Public Defender Charles Criswell tried to cast doubt on Romero's credibility. Romero, who told police Hunt's name was Desmond Oliver, told police six different stories about what happened that day and provided the only evidence placing Hunt at the apartment building at 1120 Varsity Blvd. the day of the robbery, Criswell said.

Criswell argued that her testimony Monday was a lie.

"She did what she always does: She lied to protect herself," Criswell told jurors, emphasizing that she faced significant prison time if convicted of armed robbery herself.

Criswell also questioned why police officers didn't find the wedding ring when they patted down Hunt multiple times before he was taken to jail. Officers never asked Hunt about the ring; Hunt did not testify on his own behalf.

Meanwhile, prosecutors pointed to Hunt's statements after he was arrested. Hunt initially claimed he was being framed and had only been to DeKalb once, but later he asked how he could keep Romero out of the situation and how much prison time someone would get if they were honest about what happened, Mott testified.

"Is that the statements of someone who didn't have anything to do with this robbery?" Assistant State's Attorney Duke Harris asked jurors. "Absolutely not."

Jurors began deliberating about 2:15 p.m.

Regardless of their verdict, a count of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon remains pending against Hunt. Hunt was on parole for burglary on Nov. 27, but that count was not included in this trial to avoid Hunt's prior record from clouding jurors' impressions of the evidence in the armed robbery case.

Check back at daily-chronicle.com for updates to this story.

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