Jury Now Deliberating Fate of Mt. Sterling Prison Guards

By Jeremy Coumbes on April 23, 2022 at 9:21am

The fate of a pair of former Mt. Sterling prison guards is now in the hands of the jury.

Closing arguments were heard yesterday in the trial of 53-year-old Todd Sheffler of Mendon and 30-year-old Alex Banta of Quincy yesterday in federal court in Springfield.

Sheffler and Banta are accused of the fatal beating of 65-year-old Larry Earvin of Chicago in May of 2018 at the Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mt. Sterling.

The men are charged with violating Earvin’s civil rights, conspiracy to deprive civil rights, tampering with a witness, destruction or falsification of records, and intimidation or force against a witness.

According to the Associated Press, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene Miller told the jury Friday that Sheffler and Banta beat up Earvin, then lied to cover it up, saying “this case is pretty straightforward.”

Defense attorneys blamed other guards at the facility including 43-year-old Willie Headen of Mt. Sterling. Headen pleaded guilty last year to violating Earvin’s civil rights. He testified during the trial, that the three men punched, kicked, stomped, and jumped on Earvin in a section of the prison where there are no security cameras while he was handcuffed and being taken to a segregation unit after he refused to return to his cell.

Earvin died from his injuries on June 26th, 2018. According to the A.P. report, his autopsy revealed he had 15 rib fractures; at least two dozen abrasions, hemorrhages, and lacerations; a torn aorta; and abdominal injuries so severe a portion of his bowel was surgically removed.

Medical professionals testified that such injuries typically are seen in high-speed car crashes or falls from great heights. However, defense attorneys argued that testimony also showed that such injuries could be cumulative — starting small when Earvin was roughed up and growing worse as he was forcibly moved to segregation.

Sheffler and Banta face up to life in prison if convicted. The jury will continue deliberations on Monday, after meeting briefly on Friday.