Probable cause found in Paxton attempted murder case

PAXTON — Facial injuries a Paxton man’s girlfriend received in an alleged beating at their home were detailed during a preliminary hearing in Ford County Circuit Court on Wednesday afternoon.

However, testimony related to the woman’s injuries was cut short when her boyfriend’s court-appointed attorney, Harvey Welch of Urbana, objected to State’s Attorney Andrew Killian’s line of questioning.

In response, Killian told Judge Matt Fitton that the testimony of Paxton police officer Stewart Stafford regarding Heidi M. Jones’ injuries would show that “great bodily harm” was involved in the alleged Jan. 8 attack by her boyfriend, 40-year-old Demetrius D. Couzens.

Killian then agreed to halt his questioning on that topic after Welch agreed not to contest the stipulation of “great bodily harm.”

Fitton later ruled that Killian had shown probable cause existed to proceed with the prosecution of Couzens on one count of attempted first-degree murder, a Class X felony, and two counts of aggravated domestic battery, a Class 2 felony. A pretrial hearing was set for 10:45 a.m. March 13, with a jury trial anticipated for April 9.

Charging documents allege that Couzens tried to force Jones’ head under water in their home’s bathtub, knowing that doing so would “create a strong probability of her death.” Couzens also allegedly struck her in the face with his hand, fracturing her nose, and choked her. 

Stafford testified that he was called around 1:30 a.m. Jan. 9 to a home at 227 E. Orleans St. in Paxton, regarding a “domestic incident” that had taken place around 9 p.m. the night prior. Upon arrival, Stafford spoke with Jones, who had “severe swelling” to her left eye area and the top of her nose. Stafford said it appeared that “multiple blood vessels” had broken in Jones’ left eyeball, adding that there was dried blood on her nostrils.

According to Stafford, Jones said Couzens had punched her in the face while she was sitting on a sofa. Stafford said he noticed blood stains on the floor in front of the sofa, as well as blood stains on a white sweatshirt that Jones was wearing.

It was later determined, Stafford said, that the punch caused Jones to suffer what was diagnosed as a “contained nasal fracture,” for which she required corrective surgery.

Welch then objected to the relevance of the testimony about the injuries Jones received. That was when Killian agreed to stop asking about the injuries as long as Welch would agree to the “great bodily harm” stipulation listed in all felony counts.

Welch asked Stafford if he had questioned Jones about the reason for the delay in calling authorities. Stafford said that Jones told him she could not call the police immediately because Couzens had thrown her cell phone in a tub full of water and took “the house phone” upstairs with him when he went to bed.

Couzens, who was asleep in bed when Stafford arrived at the home, made no admissions to police when questioned, Stafford said.

No other people were present during the incident, Stafford added.

Couzens remained Wednesday at the Ford County Jail. Killian asked that his bond be set at $200,000 — an amount that Fitton granted over the objection of Welch, who requested a $50,000 bond.

Killian noted that Couzens has a “parole hold” from the Illinois Department of Corrections related to a 2013 conviction for aggravated domestic battery in Kane County. Couzens also had a prior conviction for attempted murder in Winnebago County in 2004.

If convicted of attempted murder, Couzens faces a sentence ranging from 20 to 80 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, Killian said. If convicted of aggravated domestic battery, Couzens faces between seven and 14 years in prison.

Following Wednesday’s preliminary hearing, Fitton granted Jones a plenary order of protection for the next two years against Couzens. Couzens did not contest Jones’ petition for the order of protection, only asking that he be provided with his Koran and one other item while he remains jailed.

Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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Trampus wrote on February 01, 2018 at 4:02 pm

Prior conviction for attemped murder and aggravated domestic abuse. What is this guy doing on the streets? Now another attempted murder charge! Does somebody have to be killed before it becomes obvious that this man has no business loose in society. He wants his koran in jail with him. Another peace loving muslim practicing his 'religion'. Lock him up for good.