Suspect in Sheridan killings indicted on murder charges

Fredres, still without a lawyer, could get trial dates Friday

A Sandwich man was indicted Tuesday on multiple counts of first-degree murder, accused of killing his former in-laws March 16 in their Sheridan home, plus two companion charges accusing him of trying to kill his ex-wife.

A La Salle County grand jury convened Tuesday and returned a total of eight felony counts against 37-year-old Donald Fredres. These include six counts of first-degree murder, as well as attempted murder and aggravated discharge of a firearm.

Six counts of murder does not mean six people were killed. Prosecutors allege Fredres shot and killed Gregory S. Barnes Sr. and Brenda J. Barnes, both 62. Instead, each count alleges a different motive, intention or state of mind. Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011, but multiple murders remain punishable by sentences of life without parole.

Fredres also is charged with attempted murder and aggravated discharge of a firearm, accused of shooting into his ex-wife’s front door. She wasn’t struck with a bullet but was treated and released for injuries caused by flying debris.

Fredres remains held on $5 million bond and will appear Friday for arraignment before Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr.

Fredres previously advised Ryan that he would try to hire a private defense attorney, but as of Tuesday, an attorney had not entered an appearance on his behalf.

Ryan is likely to set trial dates at the Friday hearing, but the odds are overwhelmingly against Fredres standing trial at his first setting. The vast majority of murder cases take months or even years before getting to a jury because of pretrial hearings over fitness and the admissibility of evidence.

Prosecutors previously said in open court that Fredres provided police with a videotaped statement. In it, Fredres is said to have admitted to traveling to the rural Sheridan home of his former in-laws, where he asked where to find his ex-wife, from whom he was divorced and recently under a no-contact order.

When Gregory and Brenda Barnes refused to disclose their daughter’s whereabouts, Fredres allegedly killed them both, prosecutors said in court.

Fredres subsequently learned where his ex-wife had moved, then went to her residence and banged on her door, according to court statements. Fredres said in the taped statement that he fired into the door, prosecutors said. Fredres also directed police to the gun, which was retrieved.

The shootings happened March 16, but the ensuing search for Fredres extended into St. Patrick’s Day. He was arrested without incident at 6:44 a.m. in a field north of Sheridan Correctional Center, but not before residents were ordered to stay inside and secure their doors. The local school district canceled classes while he was at large.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.