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Jurors convict man in DeKalb armed robbery

Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 10:52 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 11:29 p.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – The 22-year-old Matteson man convicted this morning of armed robbery with a firearm could be sent to prison for longer than he's been alive so far.

Demond Hunt's expression was stoic as he learned jurors had convicted him of armed robbery with a firearm and aggravated battery for taking a cellphone and purse from two DeKalb apartment office employees and striking one in November. He could be sentenced to between 21 and 75 years in prison; his sentencing date will be set Thursday.

Jurors deliberated for about 10 hours, staying at the DeKalb County Courthouse until 11:15 p.m. Tuesday, and resuming at 8:30 a.m. today.

During a two-day trial, prosecutors tried to prove a masked Hunt burst into University Heights' office 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 with the gun and made off with their personal items, including a purse containing a wedding ring, prosecutors said.

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 nonreporting 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, including claims that other men were responsible. She also provided the only evidence placing Hunt at the apartment building at 1120 Varsity Boulevard 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."

A charge of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon remains pending against Hunt. Hunt was on parole for burglary in Cook County on Nov. 27, but that was not included in this trial to avoid Hunt's prior record from clouding jurors' impressions of the evidence surrounding the armed robbery allegations.

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