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Prosecutors End Bloomington Murder Case By Alleging 'Lottery By Robbery'

Sydney walks in
David Proeber
The Pantagraph (Pool)
Sydney Mays enters the courtroom Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, for the start of his murder trial.

UPDATED 5:40 p.m. | “A lottery by robbery” was behind a 2018 shooting that killed three men and left a 4-year old boy paralyzed, a prosecutor said in closing remarks Monday in the triple homicide trial of Sydney Mays.

Mays, 24, of Bloomington, is charged with murder in the deaths of Nate Pena and Corey Jackson, both 22, and Juan Carlos Perez, 33. He also faces attempted murder charges for causing injuries that left Pena’s young son paralyzed. Perez was shot in a stairwell after he came from a neighboring apartment to investigate the gunfire. 

Before he went to Pena’s apartment on June 18, 2018, Mays saw a Snapchat photo of piles of cash posted by Jackson, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds. All three men were known drug dealers, said the prosecutor. They also were known to have guns.

Reynolds quoted a witness who testified that Pena and Mays “had a deal and weren’t getting along” before the shooting at a Riley Drive apartment complex. After Pena’s girlfriend left the apartment, Mays took the opportunity to shoot the men and steal drugs and money, said Reynolds.

A timeline of text messages exchanged between Mays and Jahquan Howard shows Mays arranged for a ride to pick him up before the shooting. Further texts show Howard was growing impatient as he and a second man waited in a Ford Bronco outside the apartment.

Surveillance video and cell phone records show the girlfriend left at 2:32 p.m. Three minutes later, the first shots were fired, including a bullet that hit a radiator in the apartment and caused water to start pouring into Perez’s apartment one floor below. Perez recorded the flooding on his cell phone.

The bullet that hit Pena in the head passed through his body and into his son’s spine, according to Reynolds. Seven shots were fired at Jackson. After the child and Pena were struck, Mays “thought those two individuals had been eliminated,” said Reynolds.

Security camera footage displayed during the bench trial shows Mays running to his friend’s vehicle. Two different guns were used in the shooting – one fired all the shots inside the apartment and another weapon was used to killed Perez, according to authorities.

Defense lawyer Michael Clancy took issue with the state’s theory that Mays committed the mass shooting and ransacked the apartment for drugs and money within the span of about five minutes.

“Sydney Mays would have to be something of a James Bond character” to plot and execute such a crime, said Clancy.

The state’s case hinges on the recollection of Pena’s girlfriend, who is the sole witness to place Mays in the apartment before the slaying, said Clancy. But she was unable to confirm that the suspect was still there when she left.

The police and prosecutors are limited to the evidence that’s available, said Clancy.

“The Bloomington Police Department didn’t solve the murder and the McLean County State’s Attorney’s office has not proven Mays’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Clancy.

Costigan said he will issue a verdict in the case at a 2:30 p.m. hearing on Wednesday.

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