Judge hears motions in double-murder case; sets next court date for June 15

Duane Meyer, 41, of Stillman Valley, is charged with killing his ex-wife and 3-year-old son

An Ogle County correctional officer secures handcuffs on Duane Meyer following his motion hearing on Thursday, May 4, 2023.

OREGON – An Ogle County judge heard several defense motions on May 4 in a three-hour hearing for a Stillman Valley man charged with killing his ex-wife and their 3-year-old son in 2016.

Duane Meyer, 41, of Stillman Valley, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated arson and one count of concealment of a homicidal death in connection with the Oct. 19, 2016, Byron house fire in which Margaret “Maggie” (Rosko) Meyer, 31, was found dead and their son, 3-year-old Amos Meyer, died.

During the May 4 hearing, defense attorney Christopher DeRango, of Rockford, asked Ogle County Judge John “Ben” Roe to exclude information gathered by the prosecution from being presented to a jury arguing some of it was “irrelevant” or would be “prejudicial” to his client.

In January, DeRango entered 21 motions in limine and asked that they be sealed prior to debate in open court.

Motions in limine are commonly entered and argued before a trial begins allowing evidentiary questions to be decided by the judge. The motions are made by attorneys when seeking to exclude certain evidence from being presented to a jury.

On May 4, DeRango and his co-counsel, Patrick Moore, presented their arguments on at least six motions as to why certain evidence should be excluded while Assistant Ogle County State’s Attorney Matthew Leisten made counter arguments to allow the evidence to be presented at trial.

Some of the motions in limine made in this case pertain to crime scene photos, autopsy photos, internet searches, cellphone photos, text messages between Meyer and others, surveillance videos of vehicles and comments made to police officers during the investigation.

DeRango argued that some comments made to police were hearsay and should not be allowed to be referenced during the trial. He characterized internet searches, which he said the state allege were made by Meyer prior to the deaths, as “dubious” evidence that would be “prejudicial” to his client if allowed at trial.

He argued that the prosecution should not be given a “blanket pass” to get evidence shown at trial.

Leisten argued that the evidence was relevant and, based on case law, should be allowed.

“The jury can weigh the evidence,” Leisten said, noting that defense would also be able to cross-examine any witnesses during the trial.

“There are 6,000 pages of discovery and over 1,000 text messages between these two,” DeRango said, referring to texts the state allege were made between Meyer and a friend prior to the deaths. “These were made in the midst of a contentious divorce.”

He argued that some of the messages were taken out of context and should not be allowed as evidence.

Leisten disagreed, arguing that, “This was a planned homicide. These show what was going on in the defendant’s mind.”

Roe took all the arguments under advisement and said he would rule on the motions at Meyer’s next hearing, which is set for June 15 at 9 a.m.

He reiterated DeRango’s request that the motions remain sealed.

Maggie (Rosko) Meyer, a teacher at the Chana Education Center, filed for divorce in 2014. Court records show the divorce was finalized in September 2016.

The May 4 hearing was one of several since the murder charges were filed in October 2019.

In November 2022, Roe ruled that Duane Meyer’s cellphone records would be allowed as evidence at the trial.

Meyer remains in the Ogle County Correctional Center on a $10 million bond.

Earleen Hinton

Earleen Hinton

Earleen creates content and oversees production of 8 community weeklies. She has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.