Attorney for Stillman Valley man accused of killing his ex-wife and son asks for, receives continuance

Duane Meyer enters an Ogle County courtroom for a Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024 hearing.

OREGON – The defense attorney for a Stillman Valley man charged with killing his ex-wife and their 3-year-old son in 2016 – and then setting their home on fire – has asked for two more weeks for a defense expert to evaluate forensic reports expected to be used by prosecutors at trial.

Christopher DeRango, the attorney for Duane Meyer, 41, told Ogle County Judge John “Ben” Roe on Thursday that their expert needed more time to review data provided by prosecutors.

“I spoke with our expert this morning, and they have to request a collection of data from the FBI,” DeRango said, adding that one of the FBI contacts is currently on assignment in Eastern Europe.

Meyer 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.

Their son, 3-year-old Amos Meyer, also was home at the time of the fire and later died.

Charges against Meyer were filed in October 2019.

At a hearing in December, DeRango said that because of the “cyberdata age” there were hundreds of “antiquated file formats” that the defense team was trying to review.

Ogle County State’s Attorney Mike Rock did not object to the continuance, and Roe set the next court date for 3 p.m. Feb. 27.

In September 2023, DeRango petitioned prosecutors for any data obtained by electronic service providers, internet service providers, mobile phone carriers and digital investigation platforms.

After receiving that information, DeRango requested and received a continuance during a Sept. 26 hearing, telling Roe that he needed more time for his expert to review the reports and data provided by prosecutors.

At that hearing, Ogle County Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew Leisten said the state had provided the defense with “major forensic copies,” including phone records and text messages.

In January 2023, DeRango entered 21 motions in limine and asked that they be sealed before debate in open court.

During a May 4, 2023, hearing, DeRango asked Roe to exclude information gathered by the prosecution from being presented to a jury, arguing that some of it was “irrelevant” or would be “prejudicial” to his client.

The purpose of a motion in limine (Latin for “on the threshold”) is to determine whether certain evidence may be presented to the jury.

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.

Some of the motions made 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.

Prosecutors have argued that the evidence is relevant and, based on case law, should be allowed, adding that “the jury can weigh the evidence.”

DeRango said there were 6,000 pages of discovery and more than 1,000 text messages between Meyer and a friend before the deaths. He said the messages were made amid a “contentious divorce” and, he argued, some of the messages were taken out of context and should not be allowed as evidence.

Prosecutors have disagreed, arguing that the messages showed it was a “planned homicide” and showed “what was going on in the defendant’s mind.”

Roe has yet to rule on all the motions in limine.

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

The hearing was one of many since 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 at 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.