Co-worker charged with slaying Home Depot warehouse employee

Killer caught at girlfriend’s Justice home, police say

The Home Depot warehouse employee found shot to death in a car near his job in Elwood was killed by a co-worker, police said.

“Investigators identified him as a person of interest early on in the investigation,” Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes said of 38-year-old Derrell Draper.

Draper was arrested and charged with the murder of 30-year-old Shorewood resident Robert Bigger.

A truck driver contacted police shortly after 4:30 a.m. Friday and reported a suspicious or disabled vehicle on Baseline Road between Arsenal and Noel roads, Hayes said.

A police officer arrived at the scene, approached the vehicle and saw Bigger dead and slumped over the steering wheel, Hayes said. Bigger had been shot multiple times.

While it was established that Bigger and Draper worked together at the Home Depot warehouse, Hayes said, detectives were still piecing together a motive for the murder.

“We’re still talking to a lot of people,” he said. “We’re still trying to find a reason for the altercation. We really don’t have that.”

Hayes asked anyone with information about the killing to call the Elwood Police Department at 815-423-5411. Anonymous tipsters can also call Crime Stoppers of Will County at 800-323-6734.

Draper was captured at the Justice home of his girlfriend, where he also sometimes resides, Hayes said. Jail records list a Joliet address for Draper.

Officers with the Justice Police Department spotted Draper outside the 87th Avenue apartment of his girlfriend Saturday, Hayes said.

“They were asked to temporarily detain him until officers with the Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force arrived,” Hayes said.

The major crimes task force was assisting the Elwood police with the case.

“We arrested him yesterday in Justice and brought him to the Will County Sheriff’s Department for questioning,” Hayes said, “and the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office approved murder charges late last night and he was transferred to the Adult Detention Facility.”

Draper remained in custody at the Will County jail Sunday. Records show he appeared in court Sunday morning but no bond information was provided.

The killing of Bigger was the first murder in Elwood in nearly 12 years.

In April 2009, Elwood resident Lee Ponsche was charged with killing 18-month-old Halli Burton, the daughter of his fiancee, Jessie Evans.

Ponshe and Evans met online in January 2009. Within four months they were engaged to marry and Evans moved from Downstate White Hall with her daughter to live with Ponshe in Elwood. Ponshe struck Halli in the head three days after they arrived, killing her.

Ponshe told detectives he hit Halli because was crying through the night. An autopsy revealed she died of brain trauma.

Ponshe, now 37, was found guilty in December 2012 of Halli’s murder and sentence to life in prison. The appellate court later ruled the mandatory life sentencing law had been invalidated and sent Ponshe’s case back to Will County.

Ponshe’s life sentence was reduced to 75 years in prison. Records show him serving his sentence at maximum security Menard Correctional Center. Ponshe is scheduled to be released from prison in 2084.

Joseph Hosey

Joe Hosey became editor of The Herald-News in 2018. As a reporter, he covered the disappearance of Stacy Peterson and criminal investigation of her husband, former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson. He was the 2015 Illinois Journalist of the Year and 2014 National Press Club John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award winner.