EDWARDSVILLE — An Alton man was sentenced to 57 years in prison for fatally shooting a man in February 2014 at the Storey Manor Apartment complex in Cottage Hills.
Justin D. Vaughn, 25, was convicted by a Madison County jury on June 19, 2015, following a weeklong jury trial in Edwardsville. Officers from the Alton Police Department responded to the apartment complex following a report of shots fired at approximately 10 p.m. on the evening of Feb. 5, 2014. They determined there had been a shooting and the victim, Demetrius C. Lucas, 30, had been taken to Alton Memorial Hospital before their arrival. Lucas, who was from Alton, had been shot twice, was transferred to a St. Louis area hospital shortly thereafter and pronounced dead approximately an hour later. Vaughn, who lived in the apartment complex, was taken into custody at approximately 2:30 a.m. Feb. 6, 2014. The investigation determined that the men got into an argument during a dice game at a birthday party for Vaughn that escalated into Lucas’ shooting death.
Assistant State’s Attorneys Crystal Uhe and Rachelle Crowe, of the Violent Crimes Unit of the State’s Attorney’s Office, presented evidence supporting the state’s case that Vaughn deliberately shot Lucas rather than an act of self-defense, as claimed by Vaughn’s defense attorneys. During the trial, Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli denied a defense motion that would have allowed jurors to consider self-defense in their deliberations. After less than 90 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned guilty verdicts on charges of first-degree murder, a Class M felony; and unlawful possession of weapons by a felon, a Class 2 felony. Vaughn had previous felony convictions from 2011 on mob action and unlawful restraint.
Tognarelli sentenced Vaughn to 50 years on the murder and seven years for the unlawful weapons possession. Penalty range for a murder conviction ranges 20 to 60 years in prison; however, because Vaughn used a firearm, he was eligible for an additional 25 years. Penalty range for a Class 2 felony is three to seven years in prison. The sentences are consecutive. Vaughn will be required to serve 100 percent of the 50-year sentence for the murder, and then serve at least 50 percent of the seven-year sentence.
State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons commended the work of his prosecutors and their trial team for their victory in convicting Vaughn. “With this lengthy prison sentence, we have successfully removed a violent man from our community,” Gibbons said. “I’m proud of the work of my staff, and everyone involved, from the Alton Police Department, to the coroner and medical personnel, who assisted us in obtaining justice for the family of Demetrius Lucas. I hope that today’s sentencing provided them with closure on this difficult period in their lives.”
Gibbons also thanked the jury for their service.
“Their swift conviction of Vaughn shows that violence will not be tolerated in Madison County,” he said.