OREGON — An arrest and criminal charges against a Malta man for the 2020 killings of Karl Lamesch’s sister and unborn nephew aren’t enough to bring him closure, he said.
“You get these ideas of what it should feel like and what it would be like to finally have some sort of closure,” Karl Lamesch said in a phone interview Thursday. “To me, I’m not there yet. I’ll be happier once he’s fully sentenced and convicted. I’m glad he’s in custody, but to me, they’re not there yet.”
Matthew T. Plote, 34, of Malta, is charged with the strangling of 27-year-old Melissa Lamesch, of Mt. Morris, and setting fire to her house to conceal the death, according to the arrest warrant. The killings and fire occurred Nov. 25, 2020.
Lamesch’s baby — whose nickname was to be Little Bear — was due Nov. 27, 2020, her brother Karl Lamesch said. She had been keeping the baby’s name a secret, sharing only the nickname, he said.
“We found out the name going through her phone,” Karl Lamesch said. “It was going to be Barrett Karl-Roy Lamesch.”
Plote faces four counts of first-degree murder, three of intentional homicide of an unborn child and one each of residential arson, aggravated domestic battery and concealment of a homicidal death.
Around 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 25, 2020, firefighters responded to 206 S. Hannah Ave., in Mt. Morris, where they encountered heavy smoke and blaring smoke detectors, Mt. Morris Fire Chief Rob Hough IV said in a previous interview. Melissa Lamesch was found on the kitchen floor and pronounced dead at the scene, despite life-saving measures, he said.
During a Wednesday press conference announcing the arrest, Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle thanked everyone involved in the investigation, including Lamesch’s family.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t say ‘thank you’ to the Lamesch family,” he said. “Obviously this has been a long investigation. The fire occurred in November of 2020 and today we bring you this information. Again, that to me is something I really want to focus on — the family and being able to bring them closure today after a very lengthy investigation.”
Each family member has had to deal with their grief in their own way and in their own time, Karl Lamesch said. The process has been longer for some than others, he said.
Melissa Lamesch graduated from Oregon High School in 2011, according to her obituary. There, she was a member of the student council, color guard and bowling team. Outside school, Melissa Lamesch was part of Girl Scout Troop 480 and Circle M 4-H.
She attended Roosevelt University in Chicago, Northern Illinois University, Rock Valley College and Elgin Community College, the obituary reads. In 2020, she graduated from the SwedishAmerican EMS Paramedic class.
It was after an incident in college that landed her in the emergency room that his sister decided to become an EMT, Karl Lamesch said.
“I think she got inspired out of it,” he said. “She found something great, so good for her.”
Melissa Lamesch worked as an EMT at Trace Ambulance Service in Tinley Park and hosted trivia nights for Pub Trivia USA, her obituary reads. She was a long-time employee of Sullivan’s Foods, a member of St. Mary Catholic Church in Oregon and Faith Lutheran Church in Forreston.
“She was one of those very outgoing and energetic people,” Karl Lamesch said. “I don’t know how she always kept going. One of her friends quoted her best, ‘She was unapologetically herself.’ She was so sure and confident of herself. Melissa knew who she was.”
Prosecutors’ and law enforcement’s duty is to pursue justice, Ogle County State’s Attorney Mike Rock said.
“That’s what was done here,” he said. “An investigation takes as long as it takes. Some investigations go quicker than others. This particular case, there was a lot of work that was put in by law enforcement to get to the point where we are today.”
Prosecutors did not offer a possible motive in the case.
Melissa Lamesch and Plote were not strangers; they knew each other before the killing, Rock said.
One of the first-degree murder charges alleges “the murder was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner,” the warrant reads. That particular charge carries a mandatory prison sentence of natural life, Rock said.
The other first-degree murder charges and the intentional homicide of an unborn child charges carry sentences of 20- to 60 years in prison, Rock said. They are subject to truth-in-sentencing, meaning 100% of the sentence imposed must be served, he said.
The investigation was complicated by “a number of factors,” Rock said. “Certainly a fire just adds another layer to the investigation that law enforcement has to do. You had a number of agencies that had to be involved and conduct their own investigations before it can be put together.”
Plote’s bail was set at $10 million/10%, meaning he must post $1 million in order to be released, Rock said. As of 2:21 p.m. Thursday, Plote still was in custody at the Ogle County Jail.
If he posts bond, Plote is required to have no direct or indirect contact with the Lamesch family, according to the arrest warrant.
Plote is set to appear in Ogle County Circuit Court for a status hearing on April 8 at 2 p.m.