Wilson Pleads Guilty to Second-Degree Murder in Fitts Shooting Death

By Benjamin Cox on April 19, 2024 at 7:00am

A three-year old murder case came to a conclusion in Morgan County Circuit Court yesterday.

40-year old Joshua E. Wilson of Jacksonville pleaded guilty to a newly filed Class 1 felony second-degree murder charge in the shooting death of 26-year old Malcom V. Fitts.

Fitts was shot multiple times in the parking lot of the Turner Hi-Rise Apartment complex in the early morning hours of February 28, 2021 and later died at then-Passavant Memorial Hospital. Wilson was arrested three days later and charged with three counts of first degree murder. Wilson had been on pretrial release for multiple traffic charges. Wilson faced 20 years to natural life in prison on each of the charges.

Wilson’s case saw a rotation of several attorneys and evidentiary hearings prior to yesterday’s plea hearing. A potential jury trial was scheduled to start on Tuesday, April 23rd after Wilson had sought pretrial release under the provisions of the SAFE-T Act.

Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll discussed after the fully negotiated plea hearing the reasoning behind the additional, lower class felony charge: “There are two different ways a first-degree murder case becomes second-degree murder case. One is that a defendant is under the belief that they were acting in self-defense at the time the offense occurred, but ultimately, would be shown not to be the case. Obviously that wasn’t the case here. In this case, it was that the defendant was acting under sudden and intense provocation, which is the second way that second-degree murder can occur here in the State of Illinois.”

Noll says that video, phone messages, and communications that would have been admitted as evidence had the trial occurred and would have shown that Wilson acted under the so called “intense provocation” language under the law: “The evidence that would have been presented at trial, if this would have proceeded to trial, was that the decedent Malcolm Fitts was having a romantic encounter with a specific female in the parking lot of the Turner Hi-Rise, and that the defendant Josh Wilson entered upon that scene – the romantic encounter that was occurring in a vehicle in the parking lot – and the defendant Josh Wilson was in a sexual relationship with the female as well at the time. Based upon that encounter, it is what led to Josh Wilson ultimately shooting Malcolm Fitts.”

Prior to the official sentencing, Macoupin County Judge Kenneth Diehl read three victim impact statements from Fitts’ mother, nephew, and from one of his sisters into the record. Krystal Harris, Fitts’ oldest sister, took the stand and gave the final impact statement saying she has since had to seek mental health treatment since her brother’s death, emphasized that Fitts’ children as well as her own would no longer have a positive male role model in their lives within their family, and called Wilson’s actions nothing more than “jealousy and hatred.” She also wished to emphasize that Fitts never packed weapons and was unarmed at the time of his murder.

Wilson had few words during his statement of allocution to the court, apologizing to the family for the pain he had caused Fitts’ family and saying he would have handled the situation differently if he could go back and change things.

Wilson’s attorney, Public Defender Devin Vaughn asked the court to place a request to the Illinois Department of Corrections for Wilson to be housed in a facility with drug and alcohol and mental health treatment options.

Judge Diehl accepted the fully negotiated plea and sentence of 15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, 1 year of mandatory supervised release, and ordered him to pay a $500 county fine plus fees and court costs. Fifty-percent of the sentence must be served according to statute. Wilson was given credit for 1,146 days served in the Morgan County Jail.