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Dixon school shooter case back on the docket

After months of fasting, hospitalizations, Milby ruled fit to stand trial

Matthew Milby Jr. enters a Dixon courtroom March 1 for a fitness hearing.  After nearly a year of first refusing to eat, then undergoing mental health treatment, the Dixon High School shooter once again is fit to stand trial.
Matthew Milby Jr. enters a Dixon courtroom March 1 for a fitness hearing. After nearly a year of first refusing to eat, then undergoing mental health treatment, the Dixon High School shooter once again is fit to stand trial.

DIXON – After nearly a year of first refusing to eat, then undergoing mental health treatment, the Dixon High School shooter once again is fit to stand trial.

Matthew A.Milby Jr., 20, in custody since the shooting on May 16, 2018, was declared fit in an order filed Sept. 6 in Lee County Court. His next status hearing is Oct. 10.

According to court documents:

On Oct. 25, county Jail Superintendent Jack Skrogstad notified State’s Attorney Matt Klahn that the 5-foot-8 Milby had refused to eat for more than a week, and in the 5 months he was incarcerated had lost about 22 pounds, dipping from 140 to 118.

Milby was taken to KSB Hospital the next day, but refused all treatment.

He told jail staff he was on a hunger strike for religious reasons, but couldn’t provide a religious doctrine to support that statement. Other comments he made indicated that he thought he would be released if he continued to fast.

“I am concerned that if inmate Milby continues to refuse food and nutrition, his health will deteriorate and/or threaten his life,” Skrogstad said in an affidavit filed in support of an emergency injunction Klahn sought on Oct. 29.

In the injunction, Klahn asked the court to allow the jail staff and KSB to monitor Milby’s health and “to administer nutrition intravenously or through the use of nasogastric or jejunostomy tubes [placed through the abdomen], or any less invasive approach.”

On Nov. 1, Associate Judge Charles T. Beckman ordered Milby to follow a diet recommended by a KSB physician that prescribed a minimum amount of calories per day. If he did not, he would be force-fed.

Milby still refused to eat, so on Nov. 4, he was hospitalized in Rockford and fed through a tube that ran from his nose to his stomach.

The fasting continued.

On Feb. 27, his attorney, Thomas Murray of Dixon, sought to have Milby declared unfit to stand trial, citing the effects of what he called his client’s eating disorder.

Milby was severely depressed and was having odd and delusional thoughts surrounding food – he decided to eat as little as possible in an effort to make his body process food in the most efficient way possible, Murray told the court.

After several months of fasting and refusing medical treatment in the jail, Milby now suffered a potentially life-threatening weight loss, fatigue and an inability to concentrate, which Murray said would inhibit his ability to assist in his own defense.

Forensic psychologist James “Matthew” Finn, who interviewed Milby on Feb. 23 in his Rockford hospital room, testified at the hearing that despite a variety of mental, emotional and physical issues, Milby was able to understand and participate in court proceedings.

Beckman agreed, and ruled him fit.

Milby was returned to the jail, but hospitalized again shortly after, this time at KSB.

A month later, on March 22, as Milby’s behavior remained unchanged and his health continued to deteriorate, Murray asked that his fitness be reconsidered.

This time Beckman found the emaciated Milby unfit to stand trial and ordered him to undergo physical and mental health treatment, under the auspices of the Department of Human Services.

On Sept. 6, at a hearing held at the request of the defense, after receiving a report from the Department of Human Services a week earlier, both sides agreed Milby was fit once more, the court documents show.

Milby was not present because of transport issues; he was returned to Lee County Jail later that day.

At that hearing, because Beckman will retire at the end of the month, Circuit Judge Jacquelyn Ackert was assigned to hear the case.

Because Klahn has been tapped to replace Beckman, another attorney in his office, likely ASA Charlie Boonstra, whom Klahn is recommending take over his state’s attorney duties, will continue to prosecute.

Investigators say Milby, then a DHS senior, took a 9mm semi-automatic rifle to graduation practice in the Lancaster Gym the morning of May 16, fired at gym teacher Andrew McKay, whom he encountered in a hallway, and fled seconds later when confronted and pursued by Dixon PD school resource officer Mark Dallas.

Milby fired at Dallas outside the gym; Dallas returned fire, hitting Milby in the upper shoulder and hip. Milby was arrested near his car in Page Park. No one else was injured.

No motive for the shooting has been made public, nor has there been any indication who, if anyone, Milby was targeting that day.

He is charged with two counts of attempted murder and four counts involving aggravated discharge of a firearm. The charge involving Dallas carries 20 to 80 years in prison, with a potential 20-year enhancement; the other carries 6 to 30 years in prison, plus 20 years. The first two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm carry 10 to 45 years; the other two 6 to 30 years. All require him to serve at least 85 percent.

Milby also is charged with two counts of aggravated battery and one of misdemeanor battery after investigators say he got into a brawl Aug. 31 with two other Lee County Jail inmates, climbed onto the back of one and tried to strangle him, and struck another. Neither of them were charged.

The felony is punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison on each count. The next hearing also will be held Oct. 10.

The state has made an offer to settle in both cases.

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