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Hearing gets emotional in Dixon dragging death

Judge expected to levy sentence this morning

Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 1:36 p.m. CDT
Caption
Keith J. Shomaker

DIXON – At the end of an emotional 3-hour hearing Tuesday, a Lee County judge decided to wait until this morning to sentence a man who pleaded guilty in December to reckless homicide.

In June, Keith J. Shomaker, 19, dragged Kimberly Landwer with his car for about 20 feet after Landwer reached into the passenger-side window. Landwer, 25, fell, hitting her head on the pavement in the 100 block of East Seventh Street.

She later died at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria from her injuries.

At the sentencing hearing Tuesday, after an hour-long delay because of technical difficulties, the state showed security camera footage that apparently depicted the incident, but the recording file was so small it was difficult to see.

Dixon Detective Sgt. Matt Richards testified that Landwer “reached into the passenger seat ... [and was] dragged about 20 feet ... at that point, she falls and hits her head on the pavement.”

Three women related to Landwer also took the stand to offer victim impact statements.

After the victim’s grandmother, Hilda Landwer, testified, Kimberly’s mother, Sonya Cover, took the stand.

In addition to talking about the grief her family had faced, she spoke about her son, Mike, and the close bond he and his sister had. The Landwer family and the Shomaker family had been close, she said, and Mike had been friends with Keith.

“Mike has lost not only his sister, but his best friend,” their mother said. “She was energetic, creative, artistic, and very loving and caring.”

Cover talked about the victim’s young children: her daughter, whose sixth birthday was the day after the accident, and her son, who was 6 months old at the time.

“Life is precious. ... It is here, and then gone in an instant,” she said.

The victim’s aunt, Clara Harris, told the court, “Justice for Kim and her children is all we ask.”

From January 2013 until June 2013, Shomaker faced charges of theft, criminal damage to property, burglary, and then reckless homicide.

State’s Attorney Anna Sacco-Miller said he had twice failed drug tests while free on bond: once for THC, and once for opiates.

Just last month, while still out on bond, Shomaker was charged with unlawful possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. Authorities say he sold less than 1 gram of heroin to a confidential informant for police.

Sacco-Miller asked that his history with drugs and crime be taken into account in determining his sentence.

Shomaker’s mother, Chris Lane, pleaded for mercy for her son.

“I know he has done wrong,” she said. “My son is not a bad child. He has made very, very poor decisions due to a drug addiction.

“I feel sending my son to prison is not going to solve anything for a drug addiction. ... My son didn’t mean for anything to happen that day – the drugs had taken over.

“I just want my son to get the help he needs for a drug addiction, and the counseling that he needs. ... He’s got three paths. He’s going to go to prison; he’s going to die from his addiction; or he’s going to straighten his life out.”

Lane said that if Shomaker gets probation, he would live with her, and she would see to it that he took that third path.

Shomaker himself took the stand to offer a statement to the victim’s family.

“I have been trying to write this letter for the past 6 months,” he said. “I have so much shame. At such a young age, I didn’t realize the impact I have caused your family. I wish I could take my actions back.

“I want to apologize to my victim’s family, because I was wrong to commit such an act. ... The loss of a life is always senseless. ... I accept the responsibility for my actions I have caused and am very remorseful for my actions.

“Kimberly was a very special person who I have known for years ... [the Landwers] were like a second family to me. ... I will continue to pray and keep faith that maybe one day, they will forgive me.”

His attorney, public defender Bob Thompson, said Shomaker would best be served with a sentence of probation so he could receive proper treatment.

“The easy way out is prison, your honor,” Thompson said, arguing that Shomaker was likely to spend only 17 months in prison, even if given the maximum sentence.

The sentence will be pronounced in Lee County Court at 9 a.m. today.

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