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Crime & Courts

Wedding ring, sentence hang in balance in robbery trial

Jewelry is part of evidence against convicted robber

SYCAMORE – A woman whose wedding ring was held as evidence for an armed robbery trial will have to wait even longer before she can get it back.

The ring was key evidence against Demond Hunt, a 22-year-old Matteson man convicted April 16 of armed robbery and aggravated battery for taking a cellphone and purse containing the ring from two University Heights office employees in November. A DeKalb County Jail officer found the ring inside Hunt’s cargo pants after he was arrested Dec. 5.

Prosecutors asked for DeKalb County Associate Judge John McAdams’ permission to return the ring to the woman, who wanted it back after the six months or so it has been held in evidence.

Prosecutors offered to take a photograph of the ring to use as evidence instead.

But McAdams ruled Tuesday that the ring will continue to be kept as evidence until after the sentencing hearing and through any appeals that are filed. Hunt faces between 21 and 75 years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 6.

“This woman certainly deserves to have her ring. There’s no question of that,” McAdams said. “The safest route is to keep it in evidence. It favors the state to keep it in evidence.”

Keeping the ring as evidence allows prosecutors to point to its small size to provide a reason for why officers may have not found the ring when first searching Hunt, McAdams said. Testimony during Hunt’s two-day jury trial revealed police searched Hunt multiple times before they found the ring in his cargo pants pocket. One of the women who were robbed identified the ring as hers.

Authorities said Hunt pointed a gun at the two women while wearing a mask 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 stole a cellphone and a purse. Police found the stolen cellphone in Hunt’s girlfriend’s University Heights apartment, along with a loaded gun and Hunt’s wallet.

Both on Tuesday and during the trial, defense attorney Chip Criswell emphasized that Hunt’s girlfriend’s testimony was the only thing connecting Hunt to the crime – until police discovered the ring after they interrogated and arrested Hunt.

His girlfriend, Mariah Romero, 22, of University Park, received a plea deal that allowed her to avoid prison time in exchange for testifying against him. 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. The plea deal has not been entered before a judge yet.

DeKalb County Assistant State’s Attorney Duke Harris said Criswell’s defense implied that police somehow placed the ring in Hunt’s pocket.

“You can sugarcoat it any way you want, but that’s what he suggested,” Harris said.

Criswell denied that he ever pointed at DeKalb police detective Paul Mott as placing the ring in Hunt’s pocket, saying other people were involved in the search.

Hunt was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, but the sentencing was postponed because Hunt did not participate in a pre-sentencing investigative report that includes his prior criminal history.

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