Joliet man pleads guilty to second-degree murder of victim in 2022 shooting

Sean Rathe

A Joliet man pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of a man whom he shot during a drug deal in 2022.

On May 16, Sean Rathe, 20, was sentenced by Will County Judge Carmen Goodman to serve 50% of a 5-year prison sentence after he agreed to plead guilty to the second-degree murder of Christopher Ellinger, 45, of Joliet.

Although Ellinger was shot by Rathe on July 13, 2022, he didn’t die until seven months later.

In Illinois, a defendant is guilty of second-degree murder when they kill someone under the unreasonable belief that the circumstances would justify or exonerate the killing.

On July 13, 2022, Rathe agreed to meet Ellinger at his apartment in order to sell him drugs, according to an official statement of facts filed by prosecutors. During the transaction, a dispute arose between the two men over money that Ellinger owed to Rathe, prosecutors said.

During the dispute, Rathe pulled out a gun and shot Ellinger at least once, prosecutors said. Rathe claimed Ellinger had moved toward him first during the incident, prosecutors said.

Ellinger admitted to possessing a knife for self-defense, prosecutors said.

Ellinger became paralyzed after the July 13, 2022 shooting but he was able to identify Rathe as the shooter to detectives, prosecutors said. Ellinger died on Feb. 22, 2023, from complications of his paralysis.

Ellinger is among nine victims in 2022 who died from a homicide in Joliet.

As part of Rathe’s plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop charges of aggravated battery with a firearm, armed robbery and residential burglary and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon against Rathe, court records show.

Rathe was credited with 589 days served in jail, according to Goodman’s sentencing order. That puts Rathe’s actual prison sentence closer to 10 months for the offense of second-degree murder.