OREGON – A prosecutor and a defense attorney presented their arguments to an Ogle County judge Wednesday on whether a Malta man should be released from jail while his case proceeds in connection with the deaths of a Mount Morris woman and her unborn son.
Matthew T. Plote, 36, is charged with killing Melissa Lamesch, 27, and her baby Nov. 25, 2020, and then setting fire to her home in Mount Morris to conceal the deaths. He faces 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.
Plote has been held at the Ogle County Correctional Center on $10 million bond since his March 9, 2022, arrest. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has appeared for multiple hearings at the Ogle County Judicial Center as his case proceeds.
Plote’s attorneys, Liam Dixon and John Kopp, are asking that their client be released under the SAFE-T Act, a new law that allows defendants to be released on a no-cash bond. Under the 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.
On Wednesday, Assistant State’s Attorney Heather Kruse said Plote should continue to be detained because of the violent nature of the charges.
“He is a real danger or threat to the safety of persons or the community,” Kruse told Judge John “Ben” Roe.
She presented Roe with a transcript of grand jury proceedings that resulted in the indictments filed against Plote.
“This man strangled a woman to death who was pregnant with his son and then he lit the house on fire the day before Thanksgiving,” she said.
Kopp countered that Plote is presumed innocent of all charges as he awaits trial and has no other criminal history. He said that during the months between Lamesch’s death and Plote’s arrest he was not charged or accused of any other offenses – including traffic charges – and never tried to leave the area while the investigation continued.
“He was keenly aware he was a person of interest and was interviewed by police on numerous occasions. He remained in the area. Why would someone do that and then stay in the area?” Kopp said. “[It] makes no sense. There is no evidence that Mr. Plote poses a risk of flight. There is no risk to any specific person, and there is no threat.”
Kopp said evidence provided to a grand jury is not to be considered proof of guilt.
“There hasn’t been a trial in front of a jury. There’s just a group of people that say he’s guilty,” Kopp said, arguing that Plote could be released from jail under certain conditions set by the court as to monitoring his whereabouts and mandating where he should reside.
Kruse countered that there were not any conditions the court could impose that would ensure he would not flee.
“We believe he is highly likely to flee,” she said. “He now faces natural life in prison. Before he was arrested, the stakes were not that high.”
Roe said he would consider all arguments and would render a decision at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 7.
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 emergency medical technician at Trace Ambulance Service in Tinley Park. Her baby was due Nov. 27, 2020.