Suspect connected to death of Rushville man waives right to preliminary hearing

By Blake Schnitker on June 12 at 10:05am

The 18-year old suspect believed to be connected to the death of a Rushville man discovered in Meredosia in May waived his right to a preliminary hearing this morning.

Appearing in court for a scheduled preliminary hearing today, 18-year old Dustin Finlaw, of Meredosia, answered questions from Judge Chris Reif this morning alongside Public Defense Attorney Tom Piper. During Finlaw’s first appearance in Morgan County court in late May, the defendant was unresponsive to Judge Reif when asked a number of questions that are standard in normal court proceedings.

Today, however, Finlaw responded to questions and appeared engaged in the proceedings during a preliminary hearing. When asked by Judge Reif if he would like to hear the possible penalties that he faces in this case, Finlaw responded, “yes.” The judge then repeated those possible penalties, which include three to seven years in the Illinois Department of Corrections on counts one and two, and one to three years in the Department of Corrections for counts three, four and five.

In the case against Finlaw, the state alleges five counts, including two counts of alleged aggravated battery, two counts of alleged obstructing justice, and one count of alleged resisting a peace officer. According to court documents, in the first count, the state alleges that Finlaw committed aggravated battery in that on May 24th, he knowingly made contact of an insulting and provoking nature, in that he pushed a known police officer engaged in their official duties. Count two reads almost identical to that of count one, alleging that Finlaw pushed a second officer of the law on the same date.

In count three, the state alleges that, again on May 24th, Finlaw obstructed justice in that he knowlingly destroyed or altered physical evidence with the intent of preventing apprehension, in that he destroyed or altered his cell phone, which contained evidence relevant to an investigation of first degree murder, that of Utter.

Count four also alleges that Finlaw committed the offense of obstructing justice, however this time the allegations start to get more serious. In court documents, the state alleges that Finlaw knowingly furnished false information to a known police officer regarding his whereabouts during the alleged homicide of Utter. Court documents state that Finlaw allegedly told the police officer that he was not present at the scene of the homicide, knowing such information to be false.

The fifth count against Finlaw alleges that he resisted a peace officer in the act of placing the suspect under arrest, resulting in the proximate injury of said officer.

Having heard the possible penalties he faces in this case, Finlaw, along with Attorney Piper, waived his right to a preliminary hearing and entered a plea of not guilty and requested a trial by jury. Judge Reif set Finlaw’s next court appearance for July 11th at 9 a.m.