First of four defendants sentenced for 2011 murder of Mt. Vernon cab driver

JEFFERSON COUNTY — A 22-year-old Swansea man charged in connection with the 2011 murder of a Mt. Vernon cab driver was sentenced Wednesday in Jefferson County Court to 20-years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for Class X aggravated battery with a firearm. Three counts First Degree Murder were dismissed.

Demandre Black (Source: JCSO)
Demandre Black
(Source: JCSO)

Demandre Black was charged along with three others in the May 2011 shooting death of 75-year-old Charles Ellis. For years Ellis drove a taxi for American Cab Company in Mount Vernon.

Police responded to the intersection 6th and Bell streets on an early morning report of shots fired, where they found Ellis dead from a signal gun shot.

Hours later police arrested then 18-year-old Mark Taylor, 18-year-old Damandros James and 15-year-old Christopher Wells, all of Mt. Vernon, along with then 18-year-old Black, for their alleged involvement in Ellis’s death.

Black is the first of the group to be sentenced in connection with Ellis’ murder. Black’s plea was accepted by Circuit Judge Barry Vaughan on Wednesday morning in Jefferson County Circuit Court. The law requires that Black serve 85% of his sentence. Black was scheduled for jury trial on October 13, 2015.

As a condition of his plea agreement, Black must cooperate with the State’s Attorney’s Office in the prosecution of the three co-defendants also charged for the murder of Ellis.

Christopher Wells, a juvenile at the time of the shooting, has gone through the judicial process. He has been charged as an adult, entered an open plea of guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

James has also entered an open plea of guilty to First Degree Murder for his involvement in Ellis’ death. As a result of his plea, James will be sentenced at a date to be determined. James faces a sentence of between 20 and 60 years in prison and must serve 100 percent of his sentence.

During James’ 2014 plea hearing, Jefferson County State’s Attorney Doug Hoffman and Attorney Aaron Hopkins agreed that a term of James plea agreement is that he is to fully cooperate with law enforcement and the States Attorneys’ Office in the prosecution of his three co-defendants Black, Taylor and Wells.

James has agreed to testify at the trials of the co-defendants if the need arises.