DIXON – He woke up that morning, his head throbbing, sore all over and soaked with blood. He walked outside, touched a spot on his forehead and felt glass. He picked out the shard and threw it away. There was a gash on his leg, his hands and feet were cut all over, and at least a couple of the wounds wouldn’t stop bleeding.
“I woke up covered in blood, and I had no idea why,” he told the detectives.
He must have been in a bar fight, got hit with a bottle. “I just figured I got my ass whupped,” he said.
It wouldn’t be the first time. “I know I got a bad temper. I always have. I get mouthy. I talk shit occasionally.”
Then he saw the paper. Saw the story about the old man stabbed and murdered in his home, his disabled wife left sitting by his body for hours.
“I’m covered in blood, this guy’s covered in blood ... maybe I did it. It scared the shit out of me. I’m trying to remember this ... to make sure it wasn’t me.”
That’s what Matthew Welling told the two investigators the day of his arrest, the day after the beaten and blood-soaked body of 79-year-old Delmar “Leroy” Daniels was found. About an hour of that taped interview was shown to jurors Thursday.
It’s all they’re going to hear from the 33-year-old Amboy man, charged with five counts of first-degree murder and one count of home invasion in Daniels’ July 18, 2012, death. As is his right, Welling declined Thursday to testify on his own behalf.
After presenting testimony from 19 witnesses over 2 days, Assistant State’s Attorney Peter Buh rested his case at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Then Lee County Public Defender Bob Thompson sought a directed verdict of not guilty from Lee County Judge Ron Jacobson.
When it comes to first-degree murder, the prosecution presented no evidence of Welling’s intent to either kill or do great bodily harm to Daniels, nor did it present evidence of his mental state to prove that Welling “knowingly” killed Daniels, Thompson argued. The state also failed to prove Welling forced his way into the home “without authority” and while knowing Daniels was inside, and so failed to prove home invasion, he said.
Jacobson denied the motion, and Thompson also rested his case, “based on the presumption of innocence” and without calling a single witness.
(After the state rests, the defense often makes a procedural motion for a directed verdict, laying out its reasons why the prosecution failed to meet its burden by proving the elements of the crime. As in this case, the motion usually is denied.)
In the portion of the interview with Lee County Detective Sgt. Dave Glessner and Sheriff’s Detective Shane Miller shown in court, Welling admitted to drinking about 10 beers and having a couple of shots that night. At first he claimed not to remember anything else, including leaving the bar.
“I can’t recall anything. It’s frustrating. ... I want to know. If you guys know, please tell me.”
Under continued questioning, he told the detectives that he remembered being in a house, and a lot of blood, and running away.
“I opened my eyes and saw blood everywhere, and I took off running.”
Then he remembered a man covered in blood.
“I saw blood on a guy and I ran ... That’s all I remember, is seeing that guy and running.”
He does not admit to stabbing and slashing Daniels, a man he did not know, with the jagged edge of a broken flower vase, leaving him to bleed to death in the entryway of his home, as the prosecution accuses him of doing. He does not admit to breaking the old man’s nose, jaw and ribs, or fracturing his Adam’s apple and his hyoid bone.
“I know it’s a horrible excuse, I don’t remember. I get that.”
Witnesses have testified that Welling was angry with a man he met that night in the bar, telling him: “When you go home tonight and go to sleep, I’m going to come break in and kill you.” Welling’s ID later was found in front of the man’s home, which is less than 300 yards from Daniels’ and looks very similar.
A broken necklace with a vial of Welling’s brother’s ashes was found near Daniels’ body, as was a pair of black flip-flops and a black T-shirt. On the tape, Welling admitted to losing his ID, the necklace, his flip-flops and a shirt that night.
Also Thursday, testimony from two Illinois State Police forensic scientists put Welling’s DNA, footprints and fingerprints at the crime scene, and Daniels’ DNA in the blood still caked in the beds of Welling’s toenails.
Court resumes Monday
There is no court today. Closing arguments will begin at 10:30 a.m. Monday, then jury deliberations will begin.