A Morgan County man who was convicted of first-degree murder back in January received his sentence in Morgan County Court this afternoon.
22-year-old Dustin A. Finlaw was sentenced to 40 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections by visiting judge Jack Davis III this afternoon. The sentence brings to an end a four-year-long court case that saw Finlaw being found unfit to stand trial, then a year later fit to stand trial, followed by his firing of his appointed public defender and representing himself in court.
Finlaw was found guilty in Morgan County Court by a jury in January of this year. Finlaw murdered 42-year-old Robert L. Utter of Rushville during the early morning hours of May 2018 in the parking lot of the boat docks in Meredosia.
Utter’s body was found in his vehicle approximately a block away. Utter’s throat had been slashed and he had been stabbed 13 times in the head, neck, and back.
Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll says the 40-year sentence wasn’t what the state asked for, but overall he was satisfied with the court’s decision.
“The sentencing range by statute was twenty to sixty years followed by a three-year period of mandatory supervised release. Obviously, we asked for a little bit more than what the ultimate sentence was. We asked for fifty years and the defendant was ultimately sentenced to forty years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Given the circumstances of the case and the ruling by the judge certainly, forty years is a fair sentence. Regardless of the amount of time, ultimately it doesn’t bring Robert Utter back, but hopefully, it gives the family a certain sense of closure.”
Noll says several mitigating factors were considered in the court’s decision on the sentence. “The State argued during sentencing that one of the factors the court should consider is the defendant’s mental health status. The defense called an expert that indicated the defendant was suffering from schizophrenia. The argument that we made is, okay if that was true then certainly that lead or something led to the defendant’s behavior, and whatever that is that made the defendant do this hasn’t been corrected.
Whether it was his upbringing as they brought out as a factor in mitigation, or his mental health issues, those all still exist. I believe the court took those into consideration when deciding to separate the defendant from society for an additional well, thirty-six years at this point.
Noll says after four years of this case, he spoke with Robert Utter’s family and friends after the court adjourned and thanked them for their patience. “Murder cases take a long time to resolve, especially if it’s by trial, especially if there’s a worldwide pandemic that hits in the middle of these proceedings. And especially when the defendant has [mental] fitness issues. It did take about four years for this case to be ultimately resolved with the sentence.
We appreciate the patience of the victim’s family in that process. It was a variety of unfortunate events that led to this lingering so long, but again now that it is over hopefully they have some closure.”
Finlaw was sentenced to 40 years in IDOC with credit for 1,383 days served in Morgan County Jail. He will have to serve 100% of the sentence which means he will be in IDOC for the better part of the next 36 years.
He was also ordered to serve three years of mandatory supervised release. Two charges of aggravated battery of a peace officer, two counts of obstructing justice and destroying evidence, and one count of resisting a peace officer were all dropped per the plea.
Finlaw will be 58 years of age when he is eligible for release.