OTTAWA — Ottawa police wanted to talk to Jeremy Wade about a home invasion in which a 92-year-old woman was roped to her bed. Wade met with the cops and decided to name names.
Three days later, Wade was shot in the face and then fell 40 feet from the Sandy Ford bridge near Leonore, only narrowly avoiding death.
Prosecutors allege it was Richard “Merch” Felton who shot him. Tuesday, they finally unveiled why Felton wanted him dead.
Wade implicated Felton, himself and 23-year-old Jimmy Members of Chicago as the culprits in the Aug. 9 home invasion on Ottawa’s west side. It is Members who is on trial this week — Felton goes to trial in August — and prosecutors are hoping Wade, who has turned state witness, will fetch guilty verdicts for his former cohorts.
Prosecutors kicked off Members’ trial by calling the Ottawa woman, now 93, who described a frightening two-hour span during which she watched helplessly as her home was ransacked.
“There were two or three people came in and tied me up, hands and feet, and proceeded to go through the house,” said the woman, who was not injured in the home invasion. “That’s all I remember.”
To hear Wade tell it, it was Felton and Members who ransacked her home while he stood outside watching for suspicious neighbors and patrol cars.
Wade testified the three of them drove to a Joliet Wal-Mart to buy dark clothes, gloves and burglary tools a few hours before the break-in. (Prosecutors retrieved store surveillance footage and a receipt). Once at the Ottawa woman’s home, Wade said he helped lift Felton as he climbed into an upper-story window in the woman’s home.
Once inside, Felton let Members in through a door and together they allegedly ransacked the home — stealing a diamond solitaire ring — while Wade stood lookout.
Wade previously pleaded guilty to home invasion but agreed to testify for the state in exchange for less time behind bars. On the stand, Wade admitted he had a heroin problem and went along with Felton’s plan to force their way into the woman’s home in hopes of retrieving cash.
“I did have a hard time with it (the break-in),” Wade testified, “but my drug habit kind of took over.”
Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Tim Cappellini, Wade admitted he lied repeatedly in his first statement to Ottawa police and did not, significantly, implicate himself.
It was only in his second interview, conducted weeks after nearly losing his life on the Sandy Ford bridge, that he admitted to planning the break-in and approaching (but not entering) the victim’s home in the dead of night.
There was no direct reference to the bridge shooting and the ensuing fall during Tuesday’s proceedings, though Wade walked into the courtroom with a pronounced limp and winced as he eased into the witness chair. (Wade suffered a broken hip and his survival was described as “an incredible miracle.”)
More details about the shooting and fall are expected when Felton stands trial on Aug. 25. Felton also is charged with home invasion and residential burglary but also for attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm for the bridge shooting.
Members, meanwhile, could present his case when the trial resumes today. It was not yet clear whether he would take the stand. Though home invasion is a Class X felony carrying 6-30 years in prison, prosecutors announced they would seek an extended sentence of 6-60 years if he’s convicted.
Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or email@example.com.