Jury selection begins for 2007 murder trial
By Jim Newton firstname.lastname@example.org September 23, 2013 12:38PM
Updated: October 25, 2013 6:13AM
A long line of potential jurors stretched outside of the Lake County courtroom where the first phase in the trial of a man charged with the 2007 execution-style murder of a Round Lake Park woman at the former Waukegan Check ’n Go finally got underway Monday morning.
Jury selection in the trial of Kenosha resident Montago Suggs, 29, began around 11 a.m. Monday and could continue into Tuesday, Sept. 24, before opening arguments begin.
Suggs is charged with first-degree murder for allegedly shooting clerk Melinda Morrell, 22, in the back of the head during a May 21, 2007, robbery of the former Waukegan Check ’n Go store on Green Bay Road. About $2,000 was taken in the incident.
The case has dragged on for years with Suggs remaining in custody of Lake County Jail and the pretrial phase was punctuated over the past few weeks as prosecutors and defense attorneys made arguments before Judge Daniel Shanes over the evidence that will be allowed in the trial.
Suggs is also charged with attempted murder and attempted robbery in the case and has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
Prosecutors had initially sought the death penalty for Suggs before Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill repealing the death penalty.
After Morrell’s murder, investigators were led to Suggs after he allegedly nearly shot a clerk at the Ma & Pa’s Corner Store, 37737 N. Green Bay Road, Beach Park, five days later.
Police said he forced the store clerk to the ground behind the register, pointing a gun at him and asking “Do you want to die?”
The loaded gun did not have a round in the chamber, according to authorities, leading Suggs to run from the store with no money and accidentally drop his .380-caliber handgun.
He fled by car and was chased by police, who later found him hiding in a field in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. Police connected the two cases with ballistic tests of the gun.
Defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully to have a videotaped confession made by Suggs suppressed from the trial.
Earlier this month, Suggs was charged with aggravated intimidation, for an Aug. 5 incident in which he allegedly “communicated a threat to impose physical harm” to a deputy who was transferring him to the administrative segregation unit. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and that case will be handled separately from this trial.