Sterling homicide suspect still on the loose

STERLING – Police still are looking for a 35-year-old Sterling man they say shot and killed another man Saturday night.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Michael W. Bennett; he is charged with first-degree murder and his bond is set at $2 million.

Bennett is 5-foot-8, about 225 pounds with brown hair and eyes. Although he is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached, police do not think he is a danger to the general public.

Dead is 39-year-old Joshua N. Hamrick, whose body was found in his back yard at 901 W. 19th St. around 9:30 p.m. He was pronounced dead at CGH Medical Center.

Two women also were at the home at the time of the shooting, Deputy Chief Pat Bartel said.

An argument broke out between the two men, who knew each other; no other details about motive or the shooting itself are being released at this time.

Bennett, who has a lengthy felony history in Whiteside County, is on probation.

He was sentenced March 9, 2020, to 2-and-a-half years probation for aggravated battery in a public place; charges of aggravated discharge of a firearm and being a felon in possession of a weapon were dropped as part of a plea agreement.

On June 27, 2018, he was sentenced to 6 months of conditional discharge for aggravated battery causing great bodily harm, a felony; charges of home invasion and being a felon in possession of firearm were dismissed, also in a plea agreement.

On July 24, 2014, he was sentenced to 3 years for possession of a controlled substance; another 2014 case charging him with being a felon in possession of a firearm was dismissed.

Bennett was sentenced to 2-and-a-half years probation in October 2006 for aggravated battery causing great bodily harm; probation was revoked the following August and he was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

He was sentenced to 2 years in 2004 for having a firearm with an invalid FOID card and for possession of 30 to 500 grams of marijuana; attempted armed robbery and attempted aggravated robbery charges were dismissed in a plea agreement.

Anyone with any information on his whereabouts can call Sterling police at 815-632-6640 or the anonymous reward hotline Crimestoppers at 815-625-7867. Tipsters who have information that leads to an arrest or conviction are still eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.