Will County jury finds Ottawa man guilty of 2010 murder-for-hire plot

Christian Shepherd

A jury found a man guilty of soliciting a Will County jail inmate to kill the victim he’s charged with sexually assaulting, the victim’s mother, two detectives and yet another inmate whom he previously recruited for a murder-for-hire plot.

On Friday, former school bus driver Christian Shepherd, 43, of Ottawa was found guilty of all charges filed against him in a seven-count indictment. Shepherd was charged with two counts of solicitation of murder for hire and five counts of solicitation of murder.

Shepherd’s jury trial began Wednesday and concluded Friday. He has a status hearing set for Nov. 18.

Shepherd faces a sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison, according to the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Shepherd was arrested and booked into the Will County jail April 30, 2010, after a woman reported to Crest Hill police that he sexually abused her son, according to court records.

Two Crest Hill police detectives launched an investigation that led to charges of criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse against Shepherd.

While in jail, Shepherd discussed plans with fellow inmate Franklin Byrant to have him kill the child, the child’s mother and the two detectives in exchange for money, court records show. Shepherd gave Byrant a map of the mother’s residence.

Byrant reported Shepherd’s murder plot to sheriff’s detectives, and he agreed to wear a wire while in jail, which led to the detectives obtaining incriminating statements from Shepherd, court records show.

Shepherd was charged May 19, 2010, with soliciting Byrant to murder the four victims.

On Oct. 12, 2010, Shepherd was charged with soliciting another inmate, Daniel Robinson, to kill the same four victims and Byrant.

In closing arguments, Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Colleen Griffin told the jury that Robinson at first wanted to scam Shepherd but went to the police when he realized Shepherd was serious about his murder-for-hire scheme.

She said Robinson has turned his life around since his time in jail.

“He had no motivation to lie,” Griffin said.

Shepherd’s attorney, Julie Primozic, said the state’s case was based on Robinson’s “snitch’s story” with nothing to support it. She said Robinson was the one coming up with ideas about the murder plan and that he was trying to con Shepherd, the police and prosecutors to get his freedom from jail.

“It’s the Daniel Robinson show,” Primozic said.

Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Christine Vukmir said neither Byrant nor Robinson knew each other and yet had the same details and information about Shepherd’s murder plot. She asked the jury how it was possible for two men who didn’t know each other to have the same details.

“What’s the common denominator?” said Vukmir, who then pointed at Shepherd. “Right there.”

Shepherd’s original sexual assault case and the murder-for-hire case involving Byrant still are pending in court.