Newman man jailed on murder charge

May 21—NEWMAN — A Newman man stands charged with having shot his fiancée in the face at near-point-blank range in what is the first murder the small town has experienced in over 60 years.

Douglas County State's Attorney Robert Kosic said police were dispatched to a residence in the 300 block of South Shirley Drive in Newman (pop. 773) during Monday's early-morning hours for a report of a gunshot.

The initial investigation indicated that James W. Haynes, 41, had fired a single shot from a 9mm Glock handgun at Morgan "MJ" Harris, 24, Kosic said. Harris was pronounced dead on scene.

Kosic said Haynes made the 911 call for officers to be dispatched. But petitioning for Haynes to be held in jail ahead of trial, Kosic argued before a Douglas County judge on Tuesday that the statements Haynes gave to investigators were "riddled with inconsistencies."

Haynes initially indicated during the 911 call that he had been cleaning the firearm when the gun accidentally discharged, Kosic said.

But the defendant allegedly later told Illinois State Police that he hadn't started cleaning the gun yet when it accidentally fired. Haynes then admitted to the officers that he had taken out the magazine, reinserted it and pulled the trigger while pointing it at Harris, Kosic said.

Haynes indicated to police that he and Harris had been engaged for three years and were in a "great" relationship. But he later expressed surprise when officers told him Harris' brother had received a text message from his sister that said she was planning to leave Haynes on Monday, Kosic said.

Haynes later said he was aware that Harris changed her Facebook status from "in a relationship" to "single" on Sunday, Kosic said. Further, Haynes allegedly said Harris specifically told him she was planning on leaving him Monday morning.

Kosic said Haynes initially informed police that he called 911 immediately after Harris was shot. But Haynes then later said he waited 20 minutes before he called police.

The results of a preliminary autopsy show that Harris was shot within 12 to 15 inches of her face, as there was evidence of stippling on her skin, Kosic said.

Petitioning against Haynes being released on pretrial conditions, the state's attorney ultimately argued that Haynes had demonstrated, within less than 48 hours of the incident, a "propensity for extreme violence and deceit."

"None of this is consistent with the defendant's early stories," Kosic said. "You don't clean a gun right in front of somebody's face."

Haynes, through his public defender Mike Zopf, waived the right to present a defense argument, and Douglas County Judge Kate Watson granted the state's request for Haynes to be detained.

Watson noted that Haynes has a prior criminal history that includes a 2008 battery conviction for hitting his brother in the head, a 2013 domestic conduct conviction for hitting someone in the head and a 2018 conviction for criminal trespass to a residence.

Haynes was charged Monday with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of aggravated battery involving a firearm and one count of aggravated domestic battery.

He faces 20 to 60 years in prison if he is convicted of murder and is next scheduled to appear in court on May 31.

For the first time in many years, Douglas County has garnered attention for multiple cases involving murder charges.

* Joshua M. Henderson, 42, was charged March 14 with having stabbed Phillip Sanders, 56, to death the day before. Both men were from Tuscola.

* Manuel Alcantara, 58, of Arcola, was charged on Feb. 5 with attempted second-degree murder for stabbing a woman, who survived.

"Douglas County doesn't have many murders," Kosic said after Tuesday's hearing. "But sometimes these kinds of things crop up and come in spurts just coincidentally.

"Regardless of what kind of crimes come up, this office is charged with prosecuting them, doing justice to the community or to specific individuals and families, so I intend to do that."

Douglas County clerk records show that the last time someone was murdered in Newman was on June 18, 1961, when Frederick G. Robbins was shot to death while hitchhiking.

The two men in the vehicle that picked him up were both sentenced to prison — James Ray Cook to at least 100 years, Rodger Bartell Simpson to a minimum of 14 years.