Amboy man charged with first-degree murder, home invasion
AMBOY – A 32-year-old Amboy man was charged late Thursday in the death of 79-year-old Delmar Leroy Daniels, the Lee County Sheriff said.
Matthew W. Welling will appear in court this afternoon on first-degree murder and two home invasion charges.
Welling’s arrest came less than a day after police found Daniels dead in his home at 105 W. Main St., his disabled wife trapped near her husband’s body.
“We’re very pleased to be able to make an arrest in the case,” Sheriff John Varga said. “Hopefully, this is the beginning of the long healing process for the Daniels family, and for the folks in Amboy, as well.”
No other arrests are expected at this point, he said.
Deputies received a tip from a neighboring county about Welling’s involvement in Daniels’ death, Varga said, declining to be more specific.
About 3:45 p.m., the Lee County Tactical Response Team and Amboy Police arrested Welling at a home in the 300 block of North East Avenue, where he was staying with a friend, Varga said.
Varga did not know how long he had been living there. Welling also has ties to Florida and Sycamore, he said.
A relative who hadn’t seen Daniels in at least a day became concerned, stopped by the house around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and found his body between the kitchen and hallway.
There was blood on the floor and the walls, Varga said.
Daniels’ wife, Betty, who has health problems, was found pinned between a wall and her motorized wheelchair, near her husband’s body; she couldn’t move, Varga said.
She was taken to Mendota Community Hospital with bumps and bruises and was released Thursday, Varga said.
Deputies still are piecing together what happened, but apparently Welling, who may have been drinking, and Leroy Daniels got into some sort of struggle early Wednesday. Daniels had cuts on his face, and Welling has cuts on his body, Varga said.
There does not appear to be any damage to the front door or windows, Varga said.
Welling does not have any ties to the Daniels family, he added.
An autopsy was performed Thursday, and Lee County Coroner Jesse Partington said Daniels did not appear to have any significant injuries. He declined to comment on what might be the cause of his death.
Mihm-Jones Funeral Home in Amboy is handling funeral arrangements.
Welling, who apparently has been staying at different homes in Amboy, has a number of misdemeanor convictions in DeKalb and Lee counties for possession of drug paraphernalia, battery, resisting an officer, damage to property, domestic battery, criminal trespass, and DUI.
News of the crime quickly spread through the small community.
“I was surprised, I was kind of shocked,” said Tony Koch, 51, who lives a block and a half away from the Danielses. “I was more afraid for my [elderly] mother.”
Koch has known the Daniels family for years, he said.
Leroy Daniels used to work for Dean Foods, now Bay Valley Foods, in Dixon. He was a mechanic who liked working with small engines, Koch said.
He went to the Amboy Family Restaurant & Pizza Junction every afternoon for a cup of coffee. He was a “good family man, and often helped people out, whether it was fixing an engine or changing a spare tire, Koch said.
“He was a good neighbor, a very good neighbor,” Koch said.
He also was his wife’s primary caretaker, Koch said, adding that she has used a wheelchair for many years.
Wanda Steder, 88, who lives near the North East Avenue house, said news of Daniels’ murder was scary, “especially when it’s this close to home.”
Thursday’s arrest doesn’t completely put her mind at ease, either, she said.
“I still keep my doors locked.”
Who to call
Lee County Sheriff John Varga encourages anyone with information about this case to call the department at 815-284-6631 or Amboy Police at 815-857-3400.