SYCAMORE - A husband and wife accused of first degree murder in the shooting death of a 29-year-old man in front of his children at a gas station in DeKalb on July 4, 2020 are set to face a combined jury trial together in January.
Prosecutors deliberated on the matter as Jimmy D. Edwards, 33, and Katrina L. Edwards, 37, both of the 400 block of Charter Street in DeKalb, appeared via Zoom for a closed circuit court hearing Tuesday morning from the DeKalb County Jail. During the brief hearing, St. Charles-based attorney Kenneth Johnson, who’s representing both the Edwardses, asked DeKalb County Circuit Court Judge Phillip Montgomery if the couple could be allowed to see each other in the jail.
“As the court is fully aware that Katrina and Jimmy are married and they have not had any contact or at least a visitation together,” Johnson said. “I’m not asking for personal visitation but I just would like them to be able to meet at the jail just for a short period of time.”
Both Edwardses are two of four charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of 29-year-old Chrishun Keeler-Tyus, who died after he was shot following a verbal argument with Katrina Edwards at a FasMart gas station in the 900 block of South Fourth Street in DeKalb on July 4, 2020, according to DeKalb County court records. Police said Keeler-Tyus’s young children were in the car at the time he was shot.
Montgomery instructed prosecutors to draw up an order request to the DeKalb County Jail for visitation consideration.
“Thank you guys,” Katrina Edwards said in reply.
The Edwardses have been held in the DeKalb County Jail awaiting court proceedings since they were arrested days after the July 4 shooting last year. Keeler-Tyus’ girlfriend was also injured in the shooting.
The Edwardses, along with Jimmy Edwards’ brother, Emanuel Edwards, and a fourth person, Esaiah Escamilla, are all charged with first degree murder, a Class M felony, and could face life imprisonment if convicted. Katrina Edwards is also charged with obstructing justice.
Escamilla is also charged with attempted first degree murder, a Class X felony; aggravated battery, a Class X felony; criminal damage to property, a Class 4 felony; unlawful possession of a weapon by a felony, a Class 3 felony; aggravated discharge of a firearm, a Class 1 felony; mob action, a Class 4 felony; and armed violence, a Class X felony.
After evading police capture for more than a year, Escamilla was arrested earlier this month and is charged with 19 criminal counts. Police and prosecutors say he was the one who fired the gun, while Katrina Edwards is accused of calling her husband, Jimmy Edwards, who later allegedly arrived to the FasMart with his brother, mother and Escamilla, which was followed by the shooting.
A trial date for both husband and wife is set for the same day as of Tuesday, according to court records, for 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2022.
Montgomery asked First Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Schwertley to file a motion for joinder, meaning that both Katrina and Jimmy Edwards cases would proceed forward together.
“Obviously I think the court, the state and defense need to think about are we going to be able to do both of the trials at the same time?” Schwertley said. “I would think so, considering that Mr. Johnson represents both of these individuals, so one jury probably would be all we would need for both of them.”
“Are you going to be OK with one jury for both defendants?” Montgomery asked the court Tuesday.
“I think so, judge,” said Johnson. “I was hoping to do that January date. I’d be OK with the one jury.”
A regular jury trial consists of 12 individuals chosen by the judge, along with two alternates. For a combined jury, there would be 28 jurors total inside the courtroom at the same time, including alternates, a full jury set for each of the Edwardses, confirmed officials with the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office Tuesday.
The jury sets would sit in the courtroom during the trial proceedings which would occur jointly, according to Tuesday’s hearing plans, and be instructed by the judge to deliberate separately on either Katrina or Jimmy Edwards, officials said.
In the COVID-19 pandemic era, DeKalb County court proceedings have evolved to limit the number of people inside a courtroom to lower the risk of viral spread. Many hearings, including Tuesday’s status hearing on both Edwardses cases, are still conducted via Zoom.
The DeKalb County Courthouse also still requires masks or face coverings to be worn at all times inside the courthouse, and there are plexiglass plastic dividers set up in the courtrooms as a barrier between participants. Juror boxes, made of plexiglass per individual juror, were also installed earlier this year as the courthouse prepared to restart jury trials amid the pandemic. Trials had been stalled for most of 2020 and into 2021.
Four charged with murder in holiday shooting
Police say the shooting happened after Katrina Edwards got into an argument with Keeler-Tyus at the gas pump, allegedly called her husband, Jimmy Edwards, who then called several other family members, including allegedly Escamilla, who arrived at the gas station and shot Keeler-Tyus and his girlfriend while young children watched in the car.
According to DeKalb County court records, around 2 p.m. on July 4, 2020, Keeler-Tyus and Katrina Edwards, 35, got into a disagreement in the parking lot of a FasMart gas station, 933 S. Fourth St. in DeKalb. Minutes later, prosecutors say Edwards called her husband, Jimmy Edwards, who got in contact with his brother, Emanuel Edwards, and their mother, Annette Romano.
Escamilla was charged July 24, 2020 and a DeKalb County warrant was issued for his arrest. He had evaded police capture until early September. Officials with the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s office said Escamilla was arrested in California near San Diego recently and extradited to Illinois.
Not long after, the Edwards family showed up in a car and Keeler-Tyus was shot dead while his three children were watching in their car nearby. The victim’s eldest, a 5-year-old, “reported seeing his daddy shot,” according to police reports.
Prosecutors and police believe Escamilla, pulled the trigger from a black Dodge Avenger owned by Romano, 49, of DeKalb, who was charged with obstructing justice and entered a not guilty plea Sept, 22, 2020.
Jimmy Edwards is being held on a $1 million bond at the DeKalb County Jail. He would have to post 10%, or $100,000, to get out of jail.
Katrina Edwards is being held on a $750,000 bond at the DeKalb County Jail, after a failed motion to reduce her bond was denied on April 14, records show. She would have to post 10%, or $75,000, to get out of jail.
Their brother, Emanuel Edwards, is being held on no bond at the DeKalb County Jail, and is scheduled to appear for a status hearing on his charges at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 13 in courtroom 220, records show. He’s being represented by DeKalb County public defender Robert McCulloch. Emanuel Edwards’ case was set to go to a jury trial in October of 2020 but was postponed.
Escamilla is represented by Sycamore-based attorney Brian Erwin, and is currently being held on no bond at the DeKalb County Jail. He’s scheduled to appear for a status hearing on Oct. 20 at 1:30 p.m. in courtroom 220.
Kelsey Rettke is the editor of the Daily Chronicle, part of Shaw Media and DeKalb County's only daily newspaper devoted to local news, crime and courts, government, business, sports and community coverage. Kelsey also covers breaking news for Shaw Media Local News Network.