UPDATED 4 p.m. | A 24-year-old woman pleaded guilty Monday for her role in the death of her boyfriend at a Bloomington trailer park, just as her murder trial was set to begin.
Brittney Mikesell pleaded guilty to aggravated battery in connection with the death of Cullen Hedrick in December 2017. Hedrick was killed when the couple went to the trailer park and ran into a third person, who said he stabbed a machete-wielding Hedrick in self defense. That third person was never charged, but Mikesell was.
Though she didn’t stab Hedrick, Mikesell was charged with his murder because he died while they were allegedly committing other crimes together. The state's "felony murder" law allows for a person to be charged with murder if someone dies while they’re committing a forcible felony, such as a robbery.
Under her plea agreement, Mikesell admitted to pepper-spraying the man who killed Hedrick. She also pleaded guilty to two additional counts of aggravated battery—one for spitting on an EMT as police questioned her after the incident, and the other for pepper-spraying another woman near a Normal trailer park the week before Hedrick's death.
The murder and mob action charges were dropped as part of the plea. Jury selection in Mikesell’s trial was scheduled to begin Monday morning.
Mikesell's plea agreement includes consecutive sentences totaling 23 years. But with time served and good behavior, she could be out in around 10 years.
With the murder charged dropped, she'll also be eligible for classes and other benefits while in prison, said defense attorney Jennifer Patton.
"She's looking forward to getting her life back on track, hopefully trying to get her degree while she's incarcerated, so she can come out and get a job and hopefully be a parent to her child that she has and continue on and have a life," Patton said Monday.
The plea deal came together last-minute, just minutes before Mikesell's trial was about to begin Monday in front of Judge Casey Costigan.
"The felony murder count is obviously one that's very confusing to the public. If you talk to people about it, they don't understand it," Patton said. "Statutorily, it was chargable and (the state) charged it. But neither side knew what the jury would do with that."
McLean County First Assistant State's Attorney Brad Rigdon said his office was prepared to go to trial Monday. Mikesell made a plea offer Sunday night, he said.
"The sentence that's been imposed on her acknowledges her responsibility for the conduct that led to the death of Cullen Hedrick," Rigdon said. "It's really reflective of the excellent work of the Bloomington Police Department in investigating these multiple incidents that occurred over multiple days that allowed us to get to the situation where we have a 23-year sentence."
WGLT and The Pantagraph jointly reported on Mikesell and Hedrick's troubled lives, including mental illness and substance abuse, leading up the fatal encounter in a 2018 story.
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