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Murder trial begins for alleged shooter in 2018 Bloomington homicide

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Jordyn Thornton was acting in retaliation when he shot Trevonte Kirkwood three times in October 2018, leaving the victim fighting for his life on the sidewalk, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday in opening statements in Thornton’s murder trial.

The 27-year-old victim was shot in the 1300 block of North Oak Street in Bloomington. Three gunshots were reported by neighbors on Oct. 30, 2018, near West Seminary and Union streets.

Thornton, 22, of Bloomington, is charged with three counts of murder. Co-defendant Quentin Jackson, 23, of Peoria, is serving 17 years on weapons charges related to the same shooting.

In her opening remarks, prosecutor Ashleigh Scarborough said Kirkwood “lost his life in what can only be described as a senseless act of violence.”

Trevonte Kirkwood
Dameca Kirkwood
Trevonte Kirkwood

Kirkwood had plans to spend a “low key evening” with his girlfriend and friends when his car broke down, said Scarborough. He was taking a walk to relieve his frustration over the car trouble when his friends heard gunshots close by.

When the friends found Kirkwood, he had been shot.

“(Trevonte) stumbled towards them before he fell to the ground,” said Scarborough.

The prosecutor said evidence during the trial will explain how Thornton and his friends “have a need for recognition and what that recognition looks like.” She predicted that several witnesses will be reluctant to testify and suffer from memory lapses while on the witness stand.

Police have linked Thornton’s death to a second shooting six months later, in April 2019, that killed Juan Nash, 25, of Bloomington. Three men were convicted in that murder: Scotty Allen, Exodus Hebert and Amari McNabb.

Authorities claimed the 2019 slaying was committed in retaliation for Kirkwood’s death because the three men believed Nash’s brother played a role in the 2018 shooting.

On the night of the shooting, Thornton “got out of the car, followed Trevonte and shot him three times, then got back in the car,” said Scarborough.

Police were not able to locate the gun that killed Kirkwood, said Scarborough, but sufficient evidence exists to prove that Thornton “held the gun, pulled the trigger and killed Trevonte Kirkwood."

Defense lawyer Ron Lewis asked jurors in his opening statement to pay close attention to the testimony of certain witnesses whom he described as “felons with problems, interesting individuals.”

Lewis also contends police made at least two errors during the months-long effort to identify a suspect. The police work “went from an investigation to an orchestration,” said Lewis.

He argued police erred when they assumed the shooter was in a distinctive Chevrolet HHR, and questioned the state’s theory the defendant was in the car that belonged to his girlfriend.

“There are bad, reckless assumptions about who did this to (Trevonte),” said Lewis, adding the crime scene was chaotic, with potential witnesses talking to each other before they were interviewed by police.

Among the first five witnesses questioned by prosecutor Mary Lawson on Tuesday was Nick Ballard, a man who lived across the street from the location of the shooting. He described hearing the gunshots and seeing a man fall to the ground.

“He said he’d been shot,” Ballard testified.

Jurors heard Ballard’s 911 call to police, and the cries of Kirkwood’s friends in the background as they watched in disbelief. Ballard told a dispatcher the victim had a gunshot wound “right at his heart.”

Several Bloomington police officers testified about their work to secure a multi-block area as they canvassed the neighborhood for possible witnesses. A heavy rainstorm that rolled in an hour after the shooting made their efforts more difficult, they said.

Dressed in a white shirt, sweater vest and black slacks, Thornton sat next to Lewis and took notes during the trial. Assistant public defender Matthew Koetters is working with Lewis on the case.

Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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