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Local

Dixon woman's bench trial rescheduled in heroin-related death

Warrant still out on key prosecution witness in Hoggard case

DIXON – A bench trial for a Dixon woman charged with involuntary manslaughter is set for Oct. 25 – if the case doesn’t get dismissed, or moved one more time.

Linda J. Hoggard, 60, is accused of injecting her housemate, Jeffrey S. Scheuerman, 51, with a fatal dose of heroin on Sept. 20, 2013. She is charged with involuntary manslaughter of a family or household member, which carries 3 to 7 years in prison, and involuntary manslaughter, which carries 2 to 5 years.

She was arrested March 20 after her daughter, Devon Hoggard, changed her story about what happened that night. She could not be charged with drug-induced homicide, which carries 6 to 30 years, because the 3-year statue of limitations had expired.

Hoggard was released on her own recognizance a week ago, when Paige L Rockwood, 25, of Rockford, who was served a subpoena on July 27, failed to show up at Hoggard’s bench trial before Lee County Circuit Judge Ronald Jacobson.

An arrest warrant was issued for Rockwood, who State’s Attorney Matt Klahn says is a key prosecution witness.

She also is the respondent in a 2017 family case in Lee County. The Stephenson County Sheriff’s Department served her a summons on June 24; she failed to appear at an Aug. 9 hearing in that case.

According to her Facebook page, which was updated around noon Tuesday with a new selfie, Paige Rockwood Wilson is a Dixon High School graduate married to Maurice Omar Love Wilson, who, according to his Facebook page, is studying to be a paralegal.

She was a Lee County drug court participant about a year ago, SVM archives show.

Three other witnesses considered key to the Hoggard case have died: Kari Stauffer, 34 of Dixon, who was there the night Scheuerman died, Chad Bock, 33, of Dixon, who investigators said sold the heroin to Hoggard and Scheuerman, and Joshua Burmeister, 31, of Sterling, to whom, they said, Hoggard admitted injecting Scheuerman.

In June, defense attorney Paul Whitcombe sought to have the case dismissed, in part because of those deaths, but he lost that argument.

Sept. 7 was the second time the bench trial had been moved; the first was set for July 21, but two officers set to testify were not available, which forced a delay by the state.

Klahn said last week that, because he can’t predict when Rockwood will be found, he “could not in good conscience” keep Hoggard in jail indefinitely, and so he agreed to the $100,000 recognizance bond.

Whitcombe told Jacobson on Wednesday that Klahn is considering dismissing the charges.

Klahn, who was represented in court by Assistant State’s Attorney Charles Boonstra, declined Wednesday afternoon to comment on his position on the Hoggard case, citing ethical obligations.

“Every prosecutor must make a continued analysis on what best serves justice,” Klahn said in an email. “We do so on every case, and if we decide a continued prosecution does not serve justice, a decision will be made to dismiss it. 

“I can tell you this, I can live with losing a trial, I cannot live with not trying [it] if I think it is the right thing to do,” he wrote.     

Also Wednesday, Whitcombe renewed his demand for a speedy trial.

A defendant who is not in custody has a right to a speedy trial within 160 days from the date he or she demands a trial, unless the delay is attributable to defendant. 

That means Hoggard must be tried by Feb. 20.

A pretrial conference was set for Oct. 11.

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