Defense asks judge to delay trial for Jonathan Hurst, accused in 2016 Wilson killings in Sycamore

Weeks before long-awaited Sycamore double murder trial, defense team of former Chicago man asks for more time

Jonathan Hurst (right) talks to his attorney Chip Criswell in Judge Marcy Buick’s courtroom at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore Monday, April 29, 2024 during a hearing on his case. Hurst is charged with murder in the August 2016 slayings of mother and son, Patricia A. Wilson, 85 and Robert J. Wilson, 64, of Sycamore.

SYCAMORE – Less than a month before a long-awaited jury trial, the defense attorney for Jonathan Hurst, a former Chicago man accused in the 2016 killings of a Sycamore mother and son, filed a motion late Tuesday asking a judge to delay the trial.

The motion to continue the trial, filed by defense attorney Chip Criswell of the DeKalb County Public Defender’s Office after 4 p.m. Tuesday, is expected to be heard by Circuit Court Judge Marcy Buick Wednesday morning. Hurst already had a pretrial hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday before Criswell filed for a continuation.

Criswell also filed a motion for additional discovery, meaning evidence collection, court records show. If convicted of first-degree murder of both Wilsons, Hurst faces a life sentence. Hurst is charged with 12 counts of first-degree murder, home invasion, residential burglary, criminal trespass to residence and unlawful possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

Criswell was not immediately available for comment Tuesday evening.

“While preparing for this trial, it is clear that Defense Counsel cannot try this case alone, as was his intent, and time is needed to bring a 2nd chair up to speed given the fact that there are over 11,000 pages of discovery and over 180 disks containing hundreds, if not thousands, of additional files,” Criswell wrote in his Tuesday filing.

The majority of that evidence collection, however, was shared with Hurst’s defense team four years ago in 2020, prosecutors said.

Criswell said the state’s attorney’s office on Friday shared 1,972 pages of field notes from police and “various reports that may or may not have been previously tendered,” according to the filing.

The trial was expected to convene the week of June 24, more than four years after Hurst’s February 2020 arrest and almost eight years after Patricia A. Wilson and Robert J. Wilson, were found bludgeoned to death inside their rural Old State Road home on Aug. 15, 2016.

Patricia A. Wilson, 85, (right) and Robert J. Wilson, 64, were found stabbed and bludgeoned to death inside their home on Old State Road in Sycamore on Aug. 15, 2016. (Shaw Local file photo)

Delays, the COVID-19 pandemic and a change in Hurst’s defense attorneys have littered the past four years of pretrial hearings as prosecutors seek to prove to a jury that Hurst was the one responsible for the Wilson’s gruesome deaths.

Earlier this month, prosecutors with the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office were successful in their appeals to use DNA as key evidence in the upcoming trial. Buick on May 7 granted lead prosecutor Suzanne Collins’ request, ruling that no DNA evidence will be barred from use during witness testimony and in trial. Prosecutors have long alleged that Hurst, now 55, brutally beat to death Patricia and Robert Wilson before stealing Patricia’s car and driving it to Chicago.

Authorities have not disclosed a motive or said how the attacker may have entered the Wilson home.

Criswell had asked Buick to bar specific evidence from being used, such as samples taken from an upstairs bathroom sink faucet, from the handle of a bayonet and from the right-hand fingernails of Patricia Wilson.

Hurst was arrested at his Cincinnati, Ohio home in February 2020 and has been held without bond at DeKalb County Jail since. He pleaded not guilty to his charges in March 2020.

Hurst has previously denied ever being in Sycamore. Prosecutors said authorities could still place him at the murder scene, however.

Both Wilsons died of blunt-force head trauma, the DeKalb County Coroner’s office ruled. They were found fully clothed in separate rooms. Robert Wilson also suffered stab wounds, according to autopsy records obtained through public records requests.

By the time a jury convenes, the loved ones of the Wilsons will have waited almost eight years to find out what happened.

Now that trial appears uncertain.

Prosecutors have for months said they’re ready for a trial. During multiple hearings dating back to 2022, Collins has told Buick the Wilson family remains “very anxious” for the case to proceed.

In court filings, prosecutors allege that DNA evidence collected on multiple items inside the Wilson home and on their bodies belong to Hurst. Authorities with the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office also have said Hurst’s cellphone records put him in the area at the time the Wilsons were killed.

Patricia Wilson’s 2010 Chevrolet Impala was found nine days after the attack on Stockton Avenue near Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, where Illinois Route 64 – which runs north all the way to the Wilson home – ends, according to the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office. The Impala’s location was just a short walk from where Hurst lived in Chicago, police said at the time.

The Wilsons likely were killed between 7:43 p.m. when Patricia was last on the phone with her sister, and sometime shortly after midnight, because at 12:44 a.m. Aug. 15, 2016, surveillance footage picked up Patricia’s car traveling east on Route 64. Footage does not show the driver, police have said.

Wednesday’s hearing initially was set by Buick as a deadline for Hurst’s defense team to list who they expect to call during trial to give character testimony on his behalf.

Other witnesses expected to be called during the trial include detectives from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office who interviewed Hurst, Wilson family members, forensic experts, and other law enforcement officials who responded to the double homicide.

This story was updated at 9 p.m. May 28, 2024, with additional information from DeKalb County court records.

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