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Felon gets 6 years in crack cocaine case

Co-defendant has hearing on Jan. 23

ROCK FALLS – A Sterling parolee is headed back to prison to serve out his 6-year sentence after police found crack cocaine and cash in his motel room.

Christopher G. Cornell, 26, pleaded guilty Wednesday to possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. In exchange for his guilty plea, Whiteside County prosecutors dropped two charges of delivery of a controlled substance.

He also was given credit for 168 days served in Whiteside County Jail.

Co-defendant Jonah L. Smith, 22, of Chicago, had a pretrial hearing Wednesday. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and two counts of delivery of a controlled substance. His next hearing is Jan. 23. 

Police say Smith and Cornell sold crack cocaine to an informant on June 12.

Officers later searched their Rock Falls motel room and found several bags of crack cocaine and marijuana that appeared to be packaged to sell, they said.

In June 2008, Cornell was sentenced to 6 years for mob action; he was paroled in December 2009.

On Nov. 28, 2006, Rock Falls police found the body of 46-year-old Douglas Keefer in the backyard of his Rock Falls home. 

According to trial testimony, Nicholas T. Sheley, 33, of Sterling, stole six bags of crack cocaine from Cornell at knifepoint at Keefer’s home, an incident that led to Keefer’s beating death. 

Cornell, formerly of Calumet City, initially was charged with first-degree murder, but his co-defendant, Ivan T. Johnson, testified that he was the only one who beat Keefer.

Johnson, 25, was convicted of Keefer’s murder and sentenced to 35 years. Sheley was charged with home invasion and aggravated battery, but those charges were dropped when Cornell refused to testify against him.

Sheley subsequently was charged with killing eight people in June 2008; he has been convicted of two murders and is facing trials in the others.

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