Acree Trial Date Set for September, Defense Anticipates a Request for Bench Trial

By Jeremy Coumbes on May 19, 2023 at 4:30pm

A tentative trial date has been set in a two-and-a-half-year-old Morgan County murder case. 34-year-old Kenneth J. Acree appeared in Morgan County Court for a status hearing this afternoon.

Acree faces three counts of first-degree murder and one count of concealment of a homicidal death in the shooting death of 32-year-old Robert Schofield in October 2020 in rural Morgan County.

Defense attorney W. Scott Hanken told the court he believes all discovery evidence is up to date, and aside from some evidentiary issues that he feels can easily be pared down, the defense is ready to go to trial.

Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll says the evidentiary issues discussed are pretty commonplace during a trial, and he’s confident they can be sorted out soon. “Mr. Hanken indicated to the court that we may be able to reach some stipulations for a variety of matters. In any murder case, there is certain physical evidence that could be introduced that would have been tested by the Illinois State Police. I can’t really go into the specifics of those in this case at this time, but generally, stipulations are reached to a chain of custody, and or expert testimony, things like that.”

Seventh Circuit Court Judge Ryan Cadagin set a semi-firm date of Monday, September 18th for the trial to begin, with a status hearing for any final issues set for Friday, July 14th.

Hanken told the court that Acree is leaning toward requesting a bench trial over a jury trial. State’s Attorney Noll says nothing has been filed yet indicating it will be a bench trial, so the state will proceed as if it will be a jury trial until they are given notice otherwise. Noll indicated in court that he would anticipate a bench trial would last approximately two to three days.

During the hearing, Hanken said he has been in contact with the councils for Ken Acree’s wife, 36-year-old Laura C. Acree, and the decedent’s wife, 29-year-old Sara M. Schofield who each are facing charges of concealment of a homicidal death in the case.

Hanken asked in court this afternoon if any kind of immunity agreements had been reached between the state and the two co-defendants. Noll says no such agreements have been reached. “At this time there hasn’t been any offer made for immunity or anything to that effect to the co-defendants. Whether or not that occurs down the road, it’s just too early to say.”

Laura Acree is next due in court on Tuesday, May, 23rd, while Schofield is next due in court on July 12th. Hanken also informed the court this afternoon that he has consulted with Springfield attorney Dan Fultz, who has agreed to serve as co-council for the defense.