Updated at 4:30 pm Monday, January, 31st.
It took less than an hour for the jury to return a verdict of guilty in the Dustin Finlaw murder trial today in Morgan County Court.
The jury was handed the case just after 11:00 this morning after hearing closing arguments today. After four days of testimony last week, the jury deliberated for 50 minutes before a verdict of guilty of first-degree murder was handed down.
Finlaw was found guilty of murdering 42-year-old Robert L. Utter of Rushville in the early morning hours of May 24th, 2018 in Meredosia. Utter’s body was found in his own vehicle in the 300 block of Montgomery Street.
According to evidence presented by the prosecution, Finlaw stabbed Utter 13 times with a pairing knife while Utter was sitting in the driver’s seat of his Ford Escape where he had parked in the Naples Boat Club’s parking lot.
During closing arguments, this morning, Assistant State’s Attorney Chad Turner said it was thanks to Utter that Finlaw was ultimately caught, as he was able to drive a couple of hundred yards away from the attack before he lost consciousness, which meant Finlaw was not able to clean up any evidence that he had been in the vehicle.
Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll gave his condolences to the victim’s family, following the verdict. “First and foremost, our hearts go out to the victim’s family. Robert Utter’s loved ones were present in court throughout the trial. This was a difficult process for them. A long four years, which is how long this particular case took to get to a verdict. So first and foremost, condolences to them, and hopefully this provides some sort of closure.
The jury found the defendant guilty of first-degree murder of Robert Utter. It has been set for a sentencing hearing on April 1st of this year. At that point, Judge Davis will be sentencing the defendant. The sentencing range is twenty to sixty years on what he is charged with right now, along with some other charges that will be set for status and are still pending.”
Finlaw still faces two charges of aggravated battery of a peace officer, two counts of obstruction of justice and destroying evidence, and one count of resisting a peace officer. The status hearing on these charges will also be heard on April 1st following sentencing in the murder case.
When asked by Judge Jack Davis III, Finlaw informed the court he would continue to represent himself in his case and during sentencing.
Jeremy Coumbes assisted with this report.