© 2023 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

McLean County prosecutors say Melissa Ostrom shared death threats with police

A man in prison jump suit looks ahead as a man seated in front of him looks at a computer screen.
Edith Brady-Lunny
Joshua Livingston enters the McLean County courtroom ahead of a hearing in his murder case at the McLean County Law and Justice Center.

Hours before she was reported missing, homicide victim Melissa Ostrom told police about death threats from her boyfriend, according to a motion filed by prosecutors seeking to use the statements as evidence against Joshua Livingston, the man accused of killing Ostrom.

Livingston, who is also known as Cyrus, is charged with murder in the death of the 39-year-old Bloomington woman whose body was found by police inside a camper in rural Carlock.

Closeup of woman smiling
Bloomington Police
Melissa Ostrom of Bloomington went missing in mid-April and was found dead a few days later. Joshua Livingston has been charged with murder in Ostrom's death.

A new motion filed Tuesday by Assistant State’s Attorney Aaron Fredrick provides more detail into the murder charges. Prosecutors are asking to use statements made by Ostrom to police and others in which she recounted alleged threats of physical harm and death from Livingston.

A statement of facts compiled by the state reflects how the violence between Livingston and Ostrom unfolded in the months leading to her death.

In his motion, Fredrick argues that based on Livingston’s alleged wrongdoing, Ostrom is unable to testify and her murder “provides a strong inference that the defendant murdered Melissa to prevent her from testifying” in the domestic violence case.

In domestic battery charges filed March 21, the 41-year-old defendant was accused of pushing Ostrom during an incident two weeks earlier. In the four days he spent in jail before he was released, Livingston attempted to call Ostrom 22 times without success, said the court filing.

A pre-trial release order banned Livingston from contacting Ostrom.

On April 16, police responded to a call related to a fire at a garage on Chrisman Lane where Ostrom was residing. She told officers she believed Livingston was responsible for the blaze. According to the state, cell phone records showed Livingston’s phone was located near the garage before the fire and left the area seven minutes before the fire was discovered.

Family members reported Ostrom missing on the afternoon of April 17, telling police she had not been seen since around midnight on April 16. She told relatives she was meeting a friend and left home on foot.

Video surveillance collected by police showed the couple together at Circle K on Landmark Drive in Normal around 2 a.m. on April 17, said court documents. An hour later, they are seen at the Fairfield Inn on Wylie Drive in Bloomington where Livingston exchanged the Chevrolet Colorado truck he was driving for a Chevrolet Camaro. Both vehicles had been stolen from a body shop in Bloomington, according to authorities.

On April 17, surveillance video shows a man matching Livingston’s description pull into Country Inn and Suites in Bloomington in the stolen car. Several minutes later, the man enters the same parking lot, this time driving the Chevrolet Camaro and is seen moving property from the truck to the car.

Forensic tests confirmed human blood on the front passenger seat and trunk of the car, said the motion. The state also disclosed that an artificial fingernail, like those worn by Ostrom and missing from her hand when her body was located, was also found in the car.

Other potentially incriminating evidence against Livingston cited in the motion includes a statement from a friend who told police the defendant asked to borrow a backhoe tractor the day after Ostrom went missing. Later on April 17, a family member of the owner of the property on East North Road in Carlock told police he had encountered Livingston leaving an old camper parked on the property.

Livingston “appeared to be alone and seemed surprised to see him,” according to the state’s motion. Two days later, police found the victim’s body inside the camper. Authorities said she was strangled with a pair of leggings.

Among the statements the state seeks to admit during a trial are Ostrom’s words in the 911 call she placed in March during the alleged domestic violence.

“My boyfriend just put his hands on me several times,” Ostrom told a dispatcher, adding, “he attacked me.” She asked police not to tell Livingston she had placed the call,” because he’ll come back and kill me.”

When police spoke with Ostrom as part of the fire investigation, she told them about a comment Livingston allegedly made about performing a lewd act "on your dead corpse."

In text messages filed in court, Livingston urges his girlfriend “kill yourself. I’ll feel better when you die. Hope it’s soon.”

Several of Ostrom’s friends told police of fears the victim allegedly shared with them. “If I go missing, it was Cyrus, and he murdered me,” Ostrom told a friend.

Judge William Yoder set a Dec. 22 hearing on the state’s motion and a Jan. 18 trial on Livingston’s pending burglary case. The domestic battery trial may be held the same week in January.

Livingston, who is representing himself on the multiple criminal charges, asked that the murder case be scheduled ahead of his other cases. But under the law, the state is entitled to choose the order in which cases will go to trial.

In another development, Yoder denied Livingston’s request that he recuse himself from hearing the case because he is married to McLean County Coroner Kathy Yoder. In his ruling, Yoder pointed out that the coroner has never been called to testify as a witness in a homicide case. Yoder explained how he and his coroner wife maintain their professional distance in ongoing criminal cases where both are involved.

The Yoders “have built a ‘Chinese wall’ between the two of us,” said the judge and do not discuss their pending cases “at all, under any circumstances.”

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with donors across the NPR Network – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

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.
Related Content