Judge denies bond reduction for Malta man charged with killing Mt. Morris woman and unborn baby

OREGON — An Ogle County judge denied a Malta man’s request to have his bond reduced as he awaits trial on charges that he killed a Mt. Morris woman and her unborn son in 2020 and then set their home on fire to conceal the deaths.

Matthew T. Plote, 34, of Malta, appeared in court Friday afternoon with his defense attorney John R. Kopp, of Geneva, in front of Judge John B. Roe for the bond reduction hearing.

Plote is charged with killing Melissa Lamesch, 27, of Mt. Morris, and her unborn son on Nov. 25, 2020, and then setting fire to her house to conceal their deaths.

Lamesch’s baby was due Nov. 27.

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.

Kopp filed a motion earlier this month asking the court to reduce Plote’s $10 million bond to $500,000 because he was a career firefighter, a lifelong DeKalb County resident and was not a flight risk.

On Friday, Kopp reiterated that argument and said Plote had cooperated with police early in the investigation and had not attempted to flee even though he knew he was being investigated.

Matthew Plote, 34, of Malta, in escorted into an Ogle County courtroom on Friday afternoon. He is charged with the 2020 murders of Melissa Lamesch and her unborn child. Both were found dead in the Lamesch home in Mt. Morris after a Nov. 25, 2020, fire.

“He has strong ties to the community. He has no history of violence and he maintains his innocence,” said Kopp, adding his client was willing to wear a GPS tracking unit and surrender his passport.

In custody at the Ogle County Correctional Center since his March 8 arrest, Plote appeared in court wearing the standard orange jumpsuit and in handcuffs and leg irons. His family and friends sat in one row of the courtroom’s public seating area while Lamesch’s family, friends and coworkers sat two rows behind them.

“Bond is set appropriately,” Assistant State’s Attorney Heather Kruse said. “The charges are for the murders of two individuals. We are are concerned that he would be a flight risk.”

Kruse said it was “obvious” Plote was a danger to the community since he also is charged with arson that was meant to “conceal homicidal deaths.”

Roe said even though a bond report had indicated Plote was “low risk” and had “little or no criminal history” the nature of the charges weighed heavily in his decision.

“He is charged with 10 counts and two deaths, one being an unborn child,” said Roe. “There is some flight risk. I am weighing all these factors and putting more weight on the circumstances. I am going to deny the bond reduction.”

Members of the Lamesch family and her coworkers sighed in relief when Roe rendered his decision.

“The road has been hard,” Deanna Lamesch, Melissa’s mother, said after the court hearing. “It is difficult to watch and wait for the wheels of justice to turn.”

Melissa was a daughter, sister, aunt and godmother, and her unborn baby, Barrett, was a grandson and nephew, Deanna Lamesch said. They were lost, along with a “beloved shelter rescue cat, the family home of 28 years … a lifetime of memories along with our hopes and dreams for Melissa’s future.”

“We lost all these things two days before Barrett was to be born, the day before Thanksgiving and on Melissa’s youngest sister’s 17th birthday,” Deanna Lamesch said. “How do you come back from that? And the truth is, these things weren’t lost. They were taken from us.”

Rachel Sitkiewicz, a close friend and co-worker of Melissa Lamesch, carried two photos of Melissa and a printout of Barrett’s footprint.

“We’re very grateful that the judge didn’t approve the bail reduction,” Sitkiewicz said. “I think the main thing is grateful.”

They know the case is far from over, but the judge’s ruling gives them hope, she said.

“It’s very early on,” Kopp said after the hearing. “The case has a long way to go. Our client maintains their innocence of these charges.”

Plote’s next court date is June 3, at 1:30 p.m.

Melissa Lamesch was found around 4:30 p.m. after firefighters responded to 206 S. Hannah Ave. in Mt. Morris where they encountered heavy smoke and blaring smoke detectors. She was found on the kitchen floor and pronounced dead at the scene, despite life-saving measures.

She was a 2011 graduate of Oregon High School and an EMT at Trace Ambulance Service in Tinley Park.

Prosecutors have yet to offer a possible motive in the case, but have said Melissa Lamesch and Plote knew each other before the killings.

Earleen Hinton

Earleen oversees production and content of 9 community weeklies and has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner covers Ogle County for the Oregon Republican Reporter, Forreston Journal, Mt. Morris Times and Polo Tri-County Press. She has six-plus years of experience in journalism and has won numerous awards.