DeKalb teen’s accused killer pleads not guilty to murder charges

Timothy Doll arraigned in court for first-degree murder charges in Gracie Sasso-Cleveland’s death

SYCAMORE – A DeKalb man facing multiple counts of first-degree murder in the May 4 slaying of 15-year-old Gracie Sasso-Cleveland pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

Timothy M. Doll appeared before DeKalb County Judge Philip Montgomery for arraignment on nine felony charges in the teenager’s death.

Prosecutors have alleged Doll, 29, killed Sasso-Cleveland, who was a freshman at DeKalb High School, after he engaged in an inappropriate relationship with her for months. The DeKalb County Coroner’s Office ruled she died from asphyxiation.

Doll showed no visible reaction Wednesday as he sat handcuffed in the courtroom. Doll was flanked by multiple DeKalb County sheriff’s deputies, while DeKalb County Sheriff Andy Sullivan stood behind him during the hearing.

“Yes, your honor,” or “Yes, sir,” were the only words Doll spoke during the brief hearing, and only at Montgomery’s prompting.

Doll “with the intent to obstruct his prosecution, knowingly concealed evidence, in that said defendant threw [Sasso-Cleveland’s] cellphone in the trash at the Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital, knowing DeKalb Police Department was investigating,” indictment documents filed June 9 allege.

—  DeKalb County court documents filed June 9, 2023
Ericka Sasso, of DeKalb, mother of slain teen Gracie Sasso-Cleveland, drops by a protest Wednesday, June 14, 2023, in front of the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore. The protesters are asking for harsher sentences for those convicted of domestic or sexual abuse. They began shortly after the arraignment hearing of Timothy M. Doll, a registered sex offender charged with murder in DeKalb teen’s death.

Joined by Yorkville-based special defense attorney Andrew Nickel, Doll remained seated as Montgomery read off nine criminal counts against him in Sasso-Cleveland’s death. Nickel declined further comment.

Doll was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, a Class M felony; aggravated criminal sexual abuse, concealment of homicidal death, aggravated domestic battery, two counts of obstructing justice, unlawful restraint and unlawful communication of a child sex offender.

A registered sex offender when he allegedly killed Sasso-Cleveland, Doll could face extended sentencing if convicted of first-degree murder, Montgomery said. If found guilty of the Class M felony, Doll could face 20 to 120 years in prison.

Prosecutors have alleged Doll’s actions were in retaliation against Sasso-Cleveland after they argued at his apartment the night of May 4. She asked him to let her leave, and Doll allegedly attacked her — at one point the girl telling him she couldn’t breathe, according to court records. He then attempted to conceal the death and hide the attack from police, at first telling investigators that he hadn’t seen the girl since the previous day, according to a DeKalb police report filed in court May 9.

He later told police he knew she was 15, and that he disposed of her body after she was dead, court records allege.

Doll is being held without bond at DeKalb County Jail.

Timothy M. Doll, 29, of DeKalb, (left) and his attorney Andrew Nickel listen as Circuit Court Judge Philip Montgomery reads the charges against him Wednesday, June 14, 2023, at the DeKalb County Courthouse. Doll is being arraigned on several charges including two counts of first-degree murder in the death of 15-year-old Gracie Sasso-Cleveland of DeKalb.

A DeKalb County Grand Jury indicted Doll on June 9, about a month after his May 7 arrest the day the girl’s body was found by DeKalb police next to Doll’s home in the 500 block of College Avenue, just steps from the edge of Northern Illinois University’s campus.

Doll stands accused of suffocating Sasso-Cleveland with a pillow for three minutes before putting her body in a laundry basket and discarding it in a nearby dumpster, according to court records. Doll then called paramedics for help after he injured his back lifting the girl’s body, according to court records.

Doll “with the intent to obstruct his prosecution, knowingly concealed evidence, in that said defendant threw [Sasso-Cleveland’s] cellphone in the trash at the Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital, knowing DeKalb Police Department was investigating” indictment documents filed June 9 allege.

Doll hid Sasso-Cleveland’s personal belongings in the basement of his apartment building, according to court records. DeKalb police found them May 7 after executing a search warrant at his home.

Prosecutors have argued Doll violated the terms of his ongoing probation by engaging in inappropriate relations with Sasso-Cleveland. Scott Schwertley is leading the prosecution for the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Scott Schwertley, DeKalb County assistant states attorney looks at some paperwork during the arraignment of Timothy M. Doll, 29, of DeKalb, Wednesday, June 14, 2023, at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore. Doll was being arraigned on several charges including two counts of first-degree murder in the death of 15-year-old Gracie Sasso-Cleveland of DeKalb.

Less than a month before Sasso-Cleveland’s death, Doll pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a minor and attempted child pornography of a different girl in an unrelated 2020 case.

In exchange for the plea in that case, Circuit Court Judge Marcy Buick sentenced Doll to 2½ years in prison and 30 months of probation. Doll also was ordered to register as a child sex offender under the Illinois Sex Offender Registry.

At the time of his April 12 plea for the 2020 charges, however, he’d already served his jail time under electronic home monitoring.

Nickel filed a successful appeal last month to withdraw Buick from the new case and saw it reassigned to a different judge.

Montgomery ordered Doll to appear for a status hearing on the charges at 9 a.m. July 19.

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