JANESVILLE — Family members of former Wisconsin Badgers football player Marcus Randle El wept softly as a Rock County jury found him guilty of murder and two other charges Tuesday in the shooting deaths of two women in Janesville in February 2020.
Randle El’s brother, former NFL football player Antwaan Randle El, had a look of pain and anguish on his face as the jury returned the unanimous verdict about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The reading of the verdict by Rock County Judge Barb McCrory followed three hours of closing arguments Tuesday during which defense attorneys for Randle El sought to inject doubt in the idea that the former UW Badgers football player pulled the trigger of the gun that killed Seairaha Winchester, 30, and Brittany McAdory, 27, early on Feb. 10, 2020.
The jury unanimously found Randle El, 36, guilty of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide as party to a crime in the slaying of the two women, stealing a vehicle by force, and possessing a firearm.
The jury took less than two hours to reach a verdict after closing arguments wrapped up shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday, six days after the murder trial began.
Marcus Randle El, dressed in a dark, pinstripe suit with black Oxford shoes, kept his head down as McCrory read the verdict. He kept his hands in his lap and his right foot tapping as he remained seated in the courtroom. At one point, he briefly folded his hands and then rubbed his clean-shaven head as the jury’s decision sunk in.
Randle El had awaited trial for three years on charges he shot McAdory and Winchester in the head inside McAdory’s dark-colored Jeep SUV early on Feb. 10, 2020. A taxi driver later found the women laying on a snowy hillside behind the Mobil Travel Center truck stop along Midvale Drive.
The women were mortally wounded with gunshots to their head and chest, barely alive and unable to speak. Both died later the same night.
As the verdict came down Tuesday, friends and family of Winchester and McAdory were packed into one side of the the courtroom gallery in a subdued mood. Family members of Winchester and McAdory were escorted out of the courtroom separately from Randle El’s family and declined a Gazette reporter’s request for comment.
Inside the courtroom, as McCrory closed the trial, Randle El’s family members began to weep in the gallery as Randle El turned to them. The stocky man’s face and body were full of emotion and a tear fell from one eye as he looked out toward he family, his lips trembling and his eyes wide.
“Marcus, I love you. You can’t stop me from saying that, son!” Marcus Randle El’s mother cried out in the courtroom after the verdict fell. “The truth will come out, Marc.”
Randle El shrugged away an officer’s hand as police began to lead him out of the courtroom. He asked for “my paperwork,” and then was led away through a side door into police custody.
One of Randle El’s attorneys, Michael Hart, afterward told a family member of the now-convicted murderer that “I’d be lying if I told you we were surprised” at the verdict.
Prosecutors wrapped up their closing arguments Tuesday by laying out a timeline of events the night of the killings, pieced together from text messages and phone calls as well as gas station security video of the two women coming and going from the Mobil truck stop near where the killings are believed to have happened.
That footage was captured around the time phone records showed Randle El had contacted the two women seeking a ride from them. He’d made the calls on a phone he’d borrowed inside a friend’s apartment on Midvale Drive, about a block from where Winchester and McAdory were later found shot.
Prosecutors argued that the evidence near the scene where the women were found, along with other evidence that Randle El stole and then fled the state in a bullet-riddled and blood-soaked Jeep SUV, and later tried to burn up the vehicle, all proved he’d shot and killed them inside the vehicle.
District Attorney Jerry Urbik sealed the prosecution’s closing arguments by recapping testimony of a plow truck driver who testified in court he picked up Randle El a few hours after the killings in Janesville. He said Randle El was stranded along the roadside near Hoffman Estates, Illinois, with no money and in need of gas for the dark-colored Jeep SUV he was driving.
Urbik said the plow truck driver ended up with one of the slain women’s blood on the truck’s plow rig, DNA tests showed. Urbik said the blood “was from him,” as he turned and pointed his hand at Randle El.
The defense tried to plant a seed in its final arguments that another person, possibly someone involved in a planned drug buy, may have shot the women from outside McAdory’s SUV along Midvale Drive, near where they were later found lying in the snow, gunshot and near dead.
Randle El’s attorneys said shoe prints in the snow near where the women were found—a fact they said police downplayed in an investigation—suggest the possibility the shooter was outside the vehicle.
Prosecutors used phone records and testimony from witnesses who were friends with Winchester who said that in the weeks prior to McAdory and Winchester’s murder, Winchester was expressing fear in text messages and social media posts that Randle El was threatening to harm or kill her over suspicions she was taking drugs he was dealing or informing police about his drug dealing in Janesville.
They said if Randle El was in McAdory’s SUV as prosecutors had argued, he might have panicked and stolen the SUV out of fear he would be prosecuted. They said the fact that he turned himself in five days after the killings proves his innocence.
Prosecutors were not able during the closing arguments Tuesday to ask Randle El why he fled and apparently then later tried to burn the SUV in Illinois. His lawyers said Randle El came to the personal decision Monday night to not testify in court. They supplied no reason for his decision.
It wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday whether Randle El’s attorneys plan any other action tied to the case, including an appeal.
The sentencing is expected to be scheduled for May.