Malta man’s 2020 double-homicide case granted continuance again

Matthew Plote, 36, of Malta, is escorted into an Ogle County courtroom on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023.

OREGON – Another continuance was granted Monday for a Malta man charged with killing a Mount Morris woman and her unborn son in November 2020.

Atrorneys for Matthew T. Plote, 36, appeared via video conference Monday morning and asked Ogle County Judge John “Ben” Roe to continue the hearing to October. Ogle County State’s Attorney Mike Rock and assistants Allison Huntley and Heather Kruse appeared in person for the hearing.

John Kopp, one of two defense attorneys for Plote, asked for the continuance to give defense attorneys time to examine a report by one of the fire experts hired by the defense in connection with the case.

“There was delay in getting the report, but we did receive it today, and I need to discuss it with Liam,” Kopp said, referring to co-counsel Liam Dixon.

Kopp said the report would be made available to prosecutors by Tuesday. Rock did not object to the continuance.

Plote is charged with killing Melissa Lamesch, 27, and her unborn son Nov. 25, 2020, and then setting fire to her home in Mount Morris to conceal their deaths. Lamesch’s baby was due Nov. 27, 2020.

He is facing four counts of first-degree murder; three counts of intentional homicide of an unborn child; and one count each of residential arson, aggravated domestic battery and concealment of a homicidal death.

Kopp and Dixon have filed a motion to dismiss the murder and arson charges because of a “pretrial delay” or reduce Plote’s bond from $10 million to $50,000 as he awaits trial in the Ogle County Correctional Center.

During a September hearing, Kopp said the defense was asking to reduce bond because of the passage of the SAFE-T Act.

Plote did not appear in court Monday.

“The defendant’s appearance was waived by Attorney Kopp,” Roe said.

Roe set the next hearing for 2 p.m. Oct. 30.

Prosecutors have filed a response to the defense motion asserting that the motion to dismiss is not warranted or supported by case law.

The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the controversial SAFE-T Act that allows defendants to be released on no-cash bond. Under the new law, judges still decide whether a defendant is a flight risk or poses too much of a threat to one person or the community to allow release.

The SAFE-T Act was met with opposition from law enforcement and state’s attorneys across the state, including Ogle County.

In September, Roe said he could consider both motions at one hearing.

In their motion to dismiss, Plote’s attorneys argued that Plote has been in custody since March 9, 2022, and that before his arrest was interviewed at the time of “the unfortunate tragedy,” with only one additional interview Aug. 28, 2021.

Prosecutors have countered that case law does not support a “pre-indictment delay,” and there is no clear showing of “actual and substantial prejudice.”

Rock also noted that a “15-month delay between the commission of the crimes and the return of the indictment is reasonable given the seriousness of the crimes with which he is charged, including first-degree murder, intentional homicide of an unborn child, residential arson and concealment of a homicidal death.”

Rock’s response also said that Plote, since his arrest, has appeared in court numerous times with his attorneys.

“Future court dates have been set by agreement without a speedy-trial demand by the defendant. Further, the defendant has not alleged any prejudice as a result of a delay between his arrest and the matter being set for trial. Indeed, the defendant has not yet requested a trial date,” Rock said in the response.

The defense’s motion to reduce bond argues that because Plote is a career firefighter, has resided in DeKalb County his entire life, has strong ties to the community, and has no criminal history or history of violence, his bond should be reduced.

That motion also argues that Plote “does not pose a flight risk” since he remained in the area and was cooperative with law enforcement throughout the investigation.

“[The] defendant’s family can post up to $50,000 to secure his release and help to ensure his appearance at each court date,” according to the motion, which adds that Plote’s bond should be “reevaluated in light of the Illinois Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding the SAFE-T Act and cashless bail.”

Roe declined a similar bond reduction request in April 2022, noting that 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.

Plote has been held at the Ogle County Correctional Center since his March 9, 2022, arrest.

Lamesch was found about 4:30 p.m. Nov. 25, 2020, after firefighters responded to 206 S. Hannah Ave., Mount Morris, where they encountered heavy smoke and blaring smoke detectors. She was found on the kitchen floor and pronounced dead at the scene despite lifesaving 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 Lamesch and Plote knew each other before the killings.

Earleen Hinton

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