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Murder Trial Turns To Paralyzed Boy Who Survived Shooting

Sydney Mays
David Proeber
The Pantagraph (Pool)
Sydney Mays is charged with killing three men in June 2018 on Riley Drive in Bloomington.

An interview with the 4-year-old survivor of a triple homicide that claimed the life of his father was played in the courtroom on Wednesday in the murder trial of Sydney Mays.

The small boy talked with Bloomington Police detective John Heinlen in the Peoria hospital room where he was being treated for gunshot wounds that left him paralyzed. The boy's father, Nate Pena, and Corey Jackson, both 22, and Juan Carlos Perez, 33, were killed in the June 2018 incident on Riley Drive.

The child talked with the detective about the toys on his bed and video games. He was not willing to answer questions about “the accident" that occurred two months earlier.

“I'm done talking,” the child told Heinlen, and laid his head down on the bed.

After the first of two conversations the detective had with the boy on Aug. 23, 2018, a hospital social worker read a book to the child. Then she broke the news to him that his father had died from gunshot wounds.

The young victim acknowledged being sad about his dad and told the worker, “but I don’t want to talk about it.”

The child previously was told his father died in a car accident, according to the detective.

Heinlen had a second meeting with the child after he returned to pick up sunglasses he had left behind in the boy's room.

This time the boy's mother also was present.

In response to questions about the shooting, the child said, “there was one person … a man.”

Testimony at the bench trial included an appearance by Navarro Howard, who claimed multiple times that his statements to Bloomington Police were all lies—with the exception of his name. 

First Assistant State's Attorney Brad Rigdon confronted Howard with statements related to a dispute between Pena and Mays that erupted shortly before the shooting. Howard told police Mays, 24, had a handgun and was involved in drugs, according to the prosecutor.

In his questioning of Howard, defense lawyer Michael Clancy asked Howard about medications he was prescribed for mental health issues. The witness listed several medications, but said he self-medicated with cocaine and ecstasy the day of the police interview.

Howard said the string of lies was an effort to protect his younger brother who was in custody on charges unrelated to the shooting. Howard currently is serving 10 years for burglary and aggravated battery.

The state is expected to wrap up its case on Thursday.

If convicted, Mays faces life in prison.

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