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Jury finds man guilty of murder in death of Afton woman

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By Chris Green and Georgette Braun, Rockford Register Star
March 4, 2014

ROCKFORD, ILL.—Kody Walsh faces 45 years to life in prison, having been found guilty by a jury Monday of multiple counts of murder in the death of Afton mother Lori Daniels.

Walsh, 24, and Daniels, 36, were passengers in a Ford Explorer in 2012 on Interstate 90 when Walsh shot her in the head.

He was found not guilty of the attempted murders of driver Ebert Davison and Officers Matthew Janowski and James Sanders of the Rockton and South Beloit police squads, respectively.

Assistant State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite-Ross was pleased with the guilty verdicts to the most serious charges and hopes the verdict brings Daniels’ family “a sense of closure.”

After the trial, Sanders did not express disappointment in the not-guilty verdicts. “It’s not about us. We do the job to make the public feel safe.”

As Judge John Truitt read off a string of guilty verdicts, a woman seated behind Walsh sobbed.

After the trial, Walsh’s family declined to comment.

The prosecution established that the shooting occurred Sept. 9, 2012, when Walsh and Daniels were in the vehicle of Davison, a mutual acquaintance.

The trio had visited the State Street Station, a Rockford bikini bar, and were near South Beloit when Walsh, who was seated behind Daniels, shot her in the head, then turned the gun on Davison.

Davison testified that Walsh made him drive to his house in Beloit and then pistol-whipped him. Walsh fled in Davison’s SUV with Daniels still strapped in the front passenger seat.

Davison called police. Officers found the Explorer and were lead on a 20-mile, high-speed chase into Rockford. Janowski and Sanders testified that Walsh fired at them. After crashing the vehicle, Walsh crawled over Daniels’ body and fled.

He was captured a week later in Memphis, Tenn., after leading police in a stolen car on a dangerous high-speed chase that also ended in a wreck.

Attorneys spent two hours Monday in closing arguments.

A female friend or family member of Daniels dabbed her eyes with a tissue as prosecutors showed photos on a screen of Daniels’ bloodied body in the Explorer. Walsh, dressed in a suit, sat motionless next to his attorneys.

Defense attorney Nick Zimmerman argued it was Davison who killed Daniels, whom he knew through mutual friends.

But Hite-Ross said it was Walsh who, from the back seat, put two bullets in Daniels’ head. She called the shooting, Walsh’s escape and his capture “The Escapades of Kody Walsh.”

“They’re driving along, listening to music,” she said, when Davison heard a shot. Daniels was making sounds. “What did you do? What did you do?” Hite-Ross quoted Davison as saying to Walsh. She said Davison wanted to take Daniels to the hospital, but Walsh wouldn’t let him.

Instead, they drove to Davison’s house, where footage from security cameras show Davison cowering while Walsh holds a gun on him.

Zimmerman said those events were staged because Walsh knew there were cameras. And Walsh is seen giving Davison the keys to Davison’s house. Davison ran to a neighbor’s to call police. Walsh had stolen the Explorer.

“Look at who ran to the police and who ran from the police,” Hite-Ross told jurors.

Hite-Ross also brought up Walsh videotaping himself while leading a chase down Illinois 251 to Springfield Avenue and School Street in Rockford.

“He wrote the script, produced it, directed it and starred in it,” she said.

Walsh is scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. April 7.



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