Crime & Courts

McHenry man sentenced to five years in prison for involuntary manslaughter in overdose death

Russell “Rusty” Levand, 37, has been implicated in court proceedings, but never charged, as the shooter in the 2001 Burrito Express murder

A man with alleged ties to McHenry’s 2001 Burrito Express murder pleaded guilty Monday to unrelated charges of involuntary manslaughter for his part in the fatal heroin-fentanyl overdose of a 35-year-old McHenry woman.

McHenry County Judge Michael Coppedge sentenced Russell S. Levand, 37, of McHenry, to five years in prison of which he is required to serve 50%. He will receive credit for time served in the McHenry County jail since his arrest Feb. 6, 2020.

In exchange for his guilty plea, charges of drug-induced homicide, which could have landed him in prison for up to 30 years, were dismissed.

According to the amended indictment, on or about May 31, 2019, Levand acted “in a reckless manner, performed an act likely to cause death or great bodily harm to [Jessica Hocin], in that he knowingly and unlawfully delivered a controlled substance to [Hocin]” who he knew was an opioid addict “who had already consumed opiates on May 31 thereby contributing to [Hocin’s] death.”

Hocin, 35, was found dead in the McHenry home where she lived with Levand, according to a criminal complaint filed with the McHenry County Circuit Clerk’s Office. A hypodermic needle was found under Hocin’s body, according to the complaint.

Levand communicated with Hocin about the drugs hours before the woman died, according to court records.

Toxicology tests revealed that Hocin had fentanyl – a synthetic opioid that can exaggerate the effects of other drugs – in her system when she died, court documents show.

Levand also must pay fees and fines of $2,468.55, according to court documents.

Although never charged in the 2001 murder of Raul Briseno, the 34-year-old McHenry restaurant owner, Levand has been pointed to as the alleged shooter throughout the years, including at each of Kenneth Smith’s three jury trials. Smith was convicted three times in Briseno’s death.

Levand, who has previous convictions for burglary and drug-related crimes, has remained the main focus of each appeal Smith has won.

Smith, who was sentenced to 67 years in prison after each conviction, is housed in Lawrence Correctional Center in Sumner where he awaits final judgement on his most recent appellate win in March 2020.

The state appealed that victory and the case was argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in November. Smith’s appellate attorney David Jimenez-Ekman said Monday he has not yet heard word of the final ruling.

Levand’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Angelo Mourelatos, declined to comment on either case.

McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Brette Dunbar also declined to comment on the decision to amend the charge to involuntary manslaughter.