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Court Watch: Murder-for-Hire, Sexual Exploitation of Teens, Pipe Bomb Plot

Here's a look at some major DuPage County court cases, including a former Wheaton man charged with hiring a fellow inmate to kill two public officials and two others, and a Naperville man's sexual exploitation trial.

Prosecutors' Questioning Tactic Scrutinized in Murder-for-Hire Plot

Wheaton: A judge ruled that DuPage prosecutors used an improper tactic to bring a murder-for-hire suspect in for questioning. However, Judge George Bakalis decided the information obtained in the interview, and ultimately the charges filed against Gordon Vanderark, would have been no different if the tactic had not been used, records show.

Vanderark is charged with trying to hire a fellow prison inmate to kill a DuPage County Judge and assistant state's attorney tied to a previous felony conviction that landed Vanderark in prison. Prosecutors used a confidential source to learn about Vanderark's plan and set up a "ruse" hearing on an unrelated issue to have Vanderark brought back from the Centralia Correctional Center. 

Once in DuPage, Vanderark was questioned and subsequently charged with solicitation of murder for hire. Bakalis found problems with that approach, but declined to suppress Vanderark's statements from the interview because he likely would have offered the same information if he was interviewed at Centralia, according to court records. Vanderark returns to court Dec. 17.

Related posts:

  • Prosecutors Deny Violating Murder For Hire Suspect's Rights
  • Murder-for-Hire Suspect Wants Statements Barred
  • Judge Won’t Disqualify Prosecutors From Murder Plot Case
  • Former Wheaton Resident Pleads Not Guilty to Murder Solicitation Charges
  • Inmate Allegedly Solicited Murder of Two Public Officials

Plea Deal Reached in 7-Eleven Robbery

Lisle: The third of four men charged in a July 7-Eleven robbery has pleaded guilty for his part in the incident, records show. Antwan Jones agreed to a deal with prosecutors, who dropped several other counts, but still faces sentencing on the remaining robbery charge. He is scheduled to return to court in January.

In the last two months, two co-defendants, Antonio Finley and Steven Gayden,  pleaded guilty to robbery. Both were sentenced to prison time with recommendations for a prison boot camp. Gayden is housed at the Sheridan Correctional Center, while Finley has not yet been assigned. A fourth man, DeShaun Wilson, is scheduled for a Dec. 12 hearing. The four were charged with robbing the store and assaulting a clerk.

Related posts:

  • Four Men Arrested in 7-Eleven Robbery

Sexual Exploitation Trial Delayed

Naperville: A trial scheduled in the case of a Naperville man charged with sexual exploitation of a child has been delayed, according to court records. Steven Wu was set for a trial on Dec. 5, but it now has been pushed to Jan. 21. Wu was arrested in July after four teenage girls spotted him fondling himself outside a restaurant. One of girls called police to report Wu, who then reportedly followed the teens to a Naperville home. Wu has pleaded not guilty to the four misdemeanor counts of sexual exploitation.

Related posts:

  • Police: Naperville Man Charged With Sexually Exploiting Girls at Dairy Queen

Man Accused of Pipe Bomb Scheme Rejected From Court's Mental Illness Program

Naperville: A Naperville man accused of planning to use a pipe bomb to commit an arson has been rejected from a pre-trial diversion program for defendants with psychological issues. Joseph Schwab had applied for DuPage County's Mental Illness Court Alternative Program, but was denied acceptance during a Nov. 30 hearing. Records indicate Schwab didn't appear in court, prompting the judge to plan to issue a bench warrant for Schwab if he didn't show up for court on Dec. 6. Court records are unclear on whether Schwab was in court. He is not listed as being held in the DuPage County Jail. Schwab was previously held on $500,000 bail.

Related posts:

  • Court Watch: Naperville Man Indicted in Plan to Use Pipe Bomb

Trial in Absentia Request in 'Thrill' Carjacking

Woodridge: Prosecutors will ask a judge to hold a trial in absentia in the case of the Coal City man accused of a "thrill" carjacking in Woodridge earlier this year, court documents show. Michael Buhrman has not appeared in court since his GPS monitor sent a tampering alert to authorities in September, which later prompted a judge to forfeit Buhrman's $200,000 bail.

The judge scheduled a Jan. 10 hearing for prosecutors to argue a trial can be held without Buhrman because there is evidence he is avoiding prosecution. Police arrested Buhrman, a former engineer at the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Morris, after he wore a mask and pointed a gun at a woman sitting inside a car on May 9. Prosecutors unsuccessfully sought to increase Buhrman's bail to $1 million over the summer when a woman reported Buhrman made comments about buying gold and fleeing to Chile, records show.

Published reports indicate Buhrman was reported missing by his attorney and his girlfriend. Coal City police said it appeared Buhrman's GPS bracelet was cut off and his house was in disarray, according to the Daily Herald.

Related posts:


  • Carjacking Suspect Put On Home Confinement
  • Officials: Nuclear Engineer Who Stole Car at Gunpoint was "Thrill Seeking"

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