The murder trial of Bellwood resident Darrell J. Topps, accused of killing a female passenger in June 2009 in an attempted gang hit resulted in a hung jury on Thursday, the Cook County assistant state’s attorney said.
Jurors split 10-2 on the guilt of Topps, who was accused of firing 15 shots into a parked car at York Street and Desplaines Avenue, killing 18-year-old passenger Keyana Bates of Maywood.
Judge Carol Kipperman declared a mistrial.
“Some of the witnesses seemed to have changed their stories,” said Forest Park Deputy Police Chief Tom Aftanas. Forest Park police officers testified for almost two weeks during the trial at the Maywood courthouse.
“We are disappointed, to say the least,” Aftanas said.
Bates, who was a student at the University of Illinois Chicago, was a passenger and an unintended target, police said. Topps and a companion of Bates were members of rival gangs.
“In the wrong place at the wrong time,” was how Forest Park Police Chief Jim Ryan characterized Bates’ involvement in the gang feud at the time.
According to reports, Topps had tried to shoot the other gang member previously, while the two were driving beside each other on the Eisenhower Expressway. In the June attack, the driver and another passenger were injured, and fled in the vehicle, while the shooter, identified as Topps, ran beside it firing into the car. The driver was hit in the left shoulder but recovered.
Four days after the shooting, Topps and 24-year-old Tristan Agee, of Maywood, were arrested with the help of members of West Suburban Enhanced Drug and Gang Enforcement (WEDGE). Spotted in the getaway vehicle at a Burger King restaurant, Topps and Agee were followed into Chicago and arrested. Agee was determined to be the driver of the car from which Topps had emerged and fired, but prosecutors declined to charge Agee with first-degree murder.
“Topps maintained his innocence,” said defense lawyer and Chicago-Kent Law Professor Richard Kling. “It was declared a mistrial and it’s up to the state’s attorney whether or not they’ll retry the case.”