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home : news : local   October 3, 2015

7/18/2013 11:36:00 PM
Two more Ottawa murder suspects heading to prison

Tom Collins
NewsTribune Senior Reporter

OTTAWA — Two more of the people charged with killing Darrio Hunter are headed to prison for 45 years and 30-plus years, respectively.
Luis Lomeli of Sheridan was sentenced Thursday to 45 years for beating and stabbing Hunter in a drug deal that took a bad turn on May 2, 2011, in Ottawa. Lomeli had rejected a last-minute plea offer, took his chances before a La Salle County jury and lost.
Going to trial was a high-stakes gamble, and Lomeli paid for it. Thursday, he and his lawyers asked for the minimum sentence of 20 years but Judge Cynthia M. Raccuglia termed him beyond rehabilitation and handed down the prosecutors’ recommendation of just 15 years below the maximum.
“(Hunter’s family) has my deepest condolences and I’m sorry,” Lomeli said before sentencing. “I wish it never happened.”
Minutes later, Jason L. Ward of Ottawa appeared for a final pre-trial conference and pleaded guilty to his role in Hunter’s death. Ward, too, had previously rejected a plea agreement but apparently had a change of heart after learning of Lomeli’s fate.
Ward pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years, but more prison time appears to be on the way. Prosecutors noted emphatically that his plea includes no conditions for charges Ward faces in Kane County, and for which he might get a prison sentence served on top of the 30 years he got for Hunter.
“Sorry the guy died,” Ward told Raccuglia, when offered a chance to speak. “It wasn’t supposed to happen. That’s it.”
Indeed, no one ever alleged that Lomeli and Ward ever meant to kill Hunter, who died from blood loss sustained in an extensive beating inside the home of Lomeli’s sister, Jamie. According to evidence at Luis Lomeli’s trial, Hunter was targeted for robbery after delivering them a batch of cocaine.
“Luis was (irritated) because it was garbage cocaine,” testified Jason’s brother, Joshua. “Then my brother (Jason) said, ‘Let’s rob the guy.’”
Though Lomeli’s lawyers characterized the ensuing melee as a fight that got out of hand, Hunter bore the brunt of the blows exchanged. Lomeli and Ward repeatedly kicked and punched Hunter, who didn’t get in many shots of his own based on the few marks spotted on either of the assailants.
And it was Lomeli, witnesses testified, who deeply cut Hunter’s face with a knife, accelerating the blood loss that soon killed him.
At sentencing Thursday, chief deputy assistant state’s attorney Greg Sticka called the knife wounds “cruel, brutal (and) heinous.”
“Those cuts were to the bone, and this was at the point when (Hunter) was no longer fighting back,” Sticka said, adding later, “That was an act of violence that was taken to a whole new level.”
Lomeli and Ward have about 800 days credit for time served but can earn no good-time credit while serving their murder sentences. Lomeli could be paroled when he is about 70 years old. Ward’s time hinges on what happens in Kane County, but he has virtually no chance of getting out before his 60th birthday.
Hunter’s family expressed satisfaction with the 75 years handed out Thursday.
“We’re very happy with the job the prosecution team did and we’re happy with the sentences,” Magnus Hunter said, speaking on behalf of the assembled members of Darrio’s family.
Prosecutors have now obtained three convictions and prison sentences in connection with Hunter’s death, with one more plea all but sewn up.
Sylvia Enriquez and Joshua Ward became cooperating witnesses for the state and testified at Lomeli’s trial. Enriquez already is on parole after a time-served disposition for obstructing justice. Joshua Ward cut a deal for 30 years (15 served with day-for-day good time) on a reduced charge of armed robbery; he is scheduled to appear July 24 and could plead guilty then.
The last suspect awaiting trial is Lomeli’s sister. According to testimony at her brother’s trial, Jamie Lomeli never laid a hand a Darrio Hunter but allegedly lured him to her west-side Ottawa home to abet the robbery. She remains charged with first-degree murder and currently is set for trial Aug. 26.

Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or

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