DIXON – Four years after shooting at an officer and a teacher with an UZI-style rifle at his Dixon High School graduation practice – years punctuated by bouts of mental instability that left him unfit for trial – a clear-headed Matthew Milby Jr. pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm.
Milby faces 10 to 45 years in prison for shooting at then-school resource officer Mark Dallas on May 16, 2018, and 6 to 30 years for shooting at gym teacher Andrew McKay.
His sentencing was set for Oct. 4.
Whatever sentence Judge Judge John C. Redington levies, Milby must serve 85% before being eligible for probation. Those sentences also might be ordered to be served consecutively.
Milby, now 23, appeared in court shackled as always, but looking – and responding – more like an adult than at any of his previous court appearances.
His public defender, Eric Arnquist of Rochelle, appointed in June 2021 after previously appointed Dixon attorney Thomas Murray stepped down, said Milby has been taking his medication, has put on weight, and has improved “180 degrees” in the last several months.
“Today is the best I’ve seen him since taking over this case,” Arnquist said. “He’s ready to conclude this matter.”
Redington, who has presided over the case from the beginning, agreed.
“He looks substantially better that I have ever seen him,” the judge said.
Milby was found not fit to stand trial three times since his arrest, for refusing to eat properly and take his medication while in custody at the Lee County jail.
At a May 12, 2021, discharge hearing, he was ordered into mental health treatment with the Illinois Department of Human Services for up to 2 years.
At that hearing, he also was acquitted of two felony charges of of aggravated discharge of a firearm, and found not not guilty of the other four – two counts of attempted murder for shooting at Mark Dallas and McKay; and two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm.
A not not guilty verdict is the language used because Milby still faced possible conviction of those charges.
His fitness was deemed restored on Oct. 26, giving State’s Attorney Charley Boonstra and Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Brim the go-ahead to proceed with prosecution.
Thursday’s hearing was the culmination of that process. The other charges were dismissed.
Milby, then a Dixon High School senior, took a 9mm semi-automatic rifle to graduation practice in Lancaster Gym that day, fired at McKay, whom he encountered in a hallway, and fled seconds later when confronted and pursued by Dallas.
Milby fired at Dallas outside the gym; Dallas returned fire, hitting Milby in the upper shoulder and hip. He was arrested near his car in Page Park. No one else was injured.