From July 2003 until late 2004, Larry Bright went
on a 15-month killing spree which resulted in the deaths of 8 women
whose bodies were found in Peoria and Tazewell Counties. The bodies
of his victims were either dumped along rural roads or burned in a
fire pit in his backyard at 3418 W. Starr Court, Peoria, Illinois and
the remains spread in rural areas. Bright admitted to strangling
seven of his victims and admitted the other death was drug induced.
May 30, 2006, Larry D. Bright
plead guilty to Seven Counts of First Degree Murder and One Count of
Drug-Induced Homicide. Larry Bright was sentenced to natural life on
each of the seven counts of First Degree Murder, each sentence to run
concurrently. The First Degree Murder sentences will run concurrently
with the 30 years received on the charge of Drug Induced Homicide.
Truth in Sentencing applies,
which means Larry D. Bright will serve 100% of his sentences of
natural life in prison without the possibility of parole.
As part of the Plea Agreement,
Larry D. Bright waived all rights to appeal.
Illinois Serial Killer Pleads
Guilty in 8 Deaths
The New York Times
May 31, 2006
A serial killer who prosecutors
say burned some of his victims to ash and bits of bone in his backyard
pleaded guilty to killing eight women.
Under a deal with prosecutors, the killer, Larry
Bright, 39, of Peoria, escaped a possible death sentence and will
instead get life in prison without parole.
The killings and the time it took to solve them
caused an uproar among Peoria's blacks. Mr. Bright is white; his
victims were black, and several were prostitutes and drug addicts.
Mr. Bright did not comment in court, but in a
statement read by a lawyer, he said: "I know I've committed some
horrible and unthinkable acts. I am very sorry for the grief and
heartache that I have caused."
The authorities have refused to discuss a motive,
but they say Mr. Bright was fascinated with sex and pornography
involving black women.
Hearing for Bright pushed back to May
PEORIA - A scheduled hearing Friday for accused serial killer Larry
Bright was continued until early May.
Peoria County Circuit Judge James Shadid canceled the case
management conference late Thursday afternoon. The order didn't give
any reason, but Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons has been
sick much of the past week, which could have been a factor.
"Because nothing was going to happen today that would move the case
forward, it was continued to May 8," said First Assistant State's
Attorney Nancy Mermelstein in a written statement.
case has been in limbo for months as both sides await the results of
a mental health exam that would determine whether Bright was sane
when he allegedly committed murder. Shadid also has not set a trial
date or ruled on a motion to move the trial out of Peoria County due
to pre-trial publicity.
Bright, 39, was arrested in January 2005 and allegedly confessed to
killing eight Peoria women during a 15-month span beginning in July
has been charged with first degree murder in connection with three
of those deaths: Tamara Wells, 29, Linda Neal, 40, and Brenda Erving,
41. He allegedly choked all three of them.
Bright faces the death penalty if convicted.
pace of the 15-month-old case has frustrated friends and family of
the victims. However, Bright's defense attorneys say it's normal for
a capital case to take a long time for completion.
Reaction to Bright's possible plea agreement
the end of this month a decision will be made whether to negotiate a
plea bargain with accused serial killer Larry Bright or go to trial.
first option would drop the possibility for a death penalty
sentence. This decision is weighing heavy on the minds of family
members with ties to the case.
Cassie Gass' mother, Bonnie Fife of Canton, went missing in 2004.
About a year later, her remains were found in Bartonville.
Police have been looking into any ties her death might have with
Bright. Fife's sister dated Bright for a short period of time. Now,
Gass is unsure if a plea agreement will bring her closure.
Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons said part of the deal
with Bright would also be for him to admit to other murders. This
may or may not include Gass' mother Bonnie Fife.
death mystery has been a constant reminder to Gass, who is hoping to
learn the truth about her mother's last hours.
close the case and go on with your life, Gass said. I think that
would mean that you would know that she is at rest and you would
know that whoever got whatever was coming to them.
and her family are still waiting for their mothers bones to be
returned, so they can have a proper burial. Otherwise, she said
authorities have left her in the dark about her mother's death
Bright has only been charged with three murders, but prosecutors
said he confessed to five others after his arrest.
sets deadline on possible plea deal in serial killings
PEORIA, Ill. -- A judge on Monday gave attorneys three weeks to
negotiate a possible plea agreement that could spare the life of an
alleged serial killer who prosecutors say has confessed to killing
eight women, burning half of the bodies to ash and bone in his back
Peoria County Judge James Shadid told attorneys he will set a trial
date for 39-year-old Larry Bright and rule on a defense motion to
move his trial if ongoing talks fail to strike a deal before
Bright's next scheduled court appearance on May 30.
Bright faces the death penalty if convicted, but Peoria County
State's Attorney Kevin Lyons said Monday he would consider a defense
bid for life in prison without parole if victims' families support
the end of the day, the decision is mine and mine alone. ... But it
is important to me that the decision is reached after being filtered
through family members," Lyons told reporters.
said families' thoughts about a possible deal are more important
than in about a dozen other capital cases he has handled because the
killings affected so many people and sparked criticism from Peoria's
black community before Bright was arrested nearly a year and a half
leaders alleged authorities were slow to launch an investigation
into the deaths and disappearances of black women because of their
lifestyles involving prostitution and drug use. Many blacks also
felt victimized because Bright is white, Lyons said.
Bright's court-appointed attorneys said the pretrial plea
negotiations are typical for a death penalty case.
"You're really not doing your jobs if you don't try to negotiate.
... We're hopeful something can be resolved but it might not be,"
said defense attorney Jay Elmore.
said talks will end if no deal is reached by the judge's deadline.
Attorneys for both sides say Bright's trial would likely begin this
fall if negotiations fail.
Prosecutors say Bright has confessed to killing eight women, burning
half of the bodies for up to two days in backyard pits and dumping
the others along remote country roads in neighboring Peoria and
Bright is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Linda K.
Neal, 40, and Brenda Erving, 41, whose bodies were found in 2004,
and 29-year-old Tamara Walls, who was reported missing in 2004.
said any plea agreement would require the former concrete worker to
publicly admit the other slayings, providing closure for victims'
families. Authorities say DNA tests have been unable to identify
charred pieces of bone recovered from about a half-dozen sites where
investigators say Bright told them he dumped remains of the women.
Bright has pleaded not guilty. He tried to plead guilty during his
first two court appearances last year, but to protect his rights
judges rejected the attempts. Bright's attorneys say his family has
since persuaded him to fight for his life despite his remorse over
Authorities have declined to discuss a motive but say Bright
developed a fascination with sex and pornography involving black
women. The victims were all black and led what authorities called
Springfield psychiatrist completed a 116-page report Monday based on
a mental evaluation of Bright. Defense attorneys said outside court
that they had not yet read Dr. Terry Killian's findings. Lyons said
he concluded Bright was not insane at the time of the killings based
on a quick review of the report.
Bright is being held without bond in the Tazewell County Jail.
Accused Peoria serial killer accepts plea agreement
PEORIA (AP) -- An accused serial killer has pleaded guilty to
killing eight women in a deal that will send him to prison for life
rather than to death row.
Bright pleaded guilty Tuesday to seven counts of first-degree murder
and one count of drug-induced homicide stemming from a 15-month
killing spree in 2003 and 2004.
39-year-old former concrete worker had been charged with just three
of the deaths before accepting the deal that will put him in prison
without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors said Bright confessed last year to killing the women
then dumping half of the bodies along a little-traveled road and
burning the others in backyard pits.
Prosecutors said the deal will provide closure for victims'
Defense attorneys said the deal spares Bright's life in a case they
had no chance of winning.
Bright's alleged victims
Here's the list of Larry Bright's victims, according to police:
Sabrina Payne, 36, body found July 27, 2003, in a field near
Barbara Williams, 36, body found Feb. 5, 2004, in a ditch near
Linda K. Neal, 40, body found Sept. 25, 2004, near the Mackinaw
River near Hopedale.
Brenda Erving, 41, body found Oct. 15, 2004, in a ditch near
Shaconda Thomas, 32, reported missing in August 2004.
Shirley Ann Trapp, aka Carpenter, 45, reported missing in August
Tamara Walls, 29, reported missing in September 2004.
Laura Lollar, 33, reported missing in October 2004.
Father pleas for help in finding daughter's killer
PEORIA -- A local family is hoping police can focus on finding the
person who killed their daughter, now that investigators confirmed
she was not murdered by serial killer Larry Bright.
Tuesday, the Peoria County Sheriff's Department announced Bright was
not responsible for the murder of Wanda Jackson. Now police are back
to square one in the more than five-year investigation into her
Jackson's father, Goldus, still holds out hope that his daughter's
killer will be brought to justice.
Wanda's body was found in a Pottstown field in March of 2001.
then the Peoria County Sheriff's department created a task force to
solve her murder and the murders of nine other women. Eight of those
cases have been been linked to Bright.
However, police have very few leads when it comes to Wanda's death.
her father is hoping someone will come forward with information that
could crack the case.
almost like a cold case, but they do find people after five and six
years and I think I do feel like somebody out there knows something
and hopefully they will come forward," Goldus said.
Jackson said the news that Bright is not responsible for his
daughter's death was disappointing, but he now thinks that police
will have more time to focus on finding Wanda's killer.
Peoria County Sheriff said he is optimistic that Wanda's killer will
June 2, 1996
PEORIA - A relative of Larry Bright agreed with the family members
of his victims - the former concrete worker should die in prison.
getting what he deserved," the relative, who asked not to be
identified, said Wednesday. "Those women are dead, and their
families won't ever get to spend time with them. Larry will (live)
even though he's behind bars."
after Bright, 39, pleaded guilty to killing eight women in exchange
for a life sentence, the relative remembered their younger days in
Tremont, when the two would spend time during the summer fishing and
hanging out with friends. Bright was popular with the girls at
school and enjoyed playing football, the relative said.
between those happy times and early 2003, something changed. Bright
went from what most would consider a relatively normal life to
becoming the area's worst serial killer in years.
"Larry just snapped," she said.
a 15-month period, Bright strangled seven women and gave enough
cocaine to an eighth to cause her death. He dumped four of the
bodies along roads in rural Peoria and Tazewell counties.
other four he burned and scattered the ashes at various locations.
Rev. Timothy Criss, who has acted as a spokesman for the families,
said Tuesday that Bright's admission in court that he killed the
eight women will ease some of the pain.
think that for the families, they are now able to say OK, I don't
have a body but I have an admission and now we can put this to some
kind of closure, put it to rest, have a memorial service for that
matter and move on with their lives," he said.
for Goldus Jackson, the father of Wanda Jackson, who was found dead
in 2001, there is no closure. Bright was thought to have killed
Jackson and Frederickia Brown, but has denied it. Police don't
believe Bright killed the two women, either.
personal opinion, I don't think he did it to Wanda, but I think that
he might have knowledge," Goldus Jackson said. "I believe he knows
who did it."
Peoria County Sheriff Michael McCoy said he will diligently work to
close those two cases, but Goldus Jackson said the cases are "cold,"
and he believes unlikely to get the same attention as those of the
previous eight women. He's realistic about the chances of his
daughter's slaying being solved but his faith has helped him through
Lord knows who did it, and that's good enough for me," he said.
all the things left unanswered is what caused Bright to "snap."
When he was 19, Bright served a two-year stint in prison for vehicle
and residential burglary. It was then, the relative remembers, that
she started to notice a change. Bright refused to talk about what
happened in prison, but his relative said whatever occurred behind
bars changed him forever.
had smoked marijuana as a teen, but after prison, moved on to drugs
such as cocaine. He used coke and booze heavily after being
released, the relative said. Bright's dependence on them escalated
after he injured his back while working as a concrete worker for a
construction company. The accident forced Bright to have three back
surgeries, and he became addicted to painkillers, according to his
time in prison, addiction to drugs and alcohol and inability to hold
a steady job because of his back injury sent Bright into a deep
depression. It was about this time, authorities believe, he started
picking up black women for sex and drugs.
first, Bright didn't set out to kill, but sometime after the first
few deaths, a switch flipped, said Peoria County State's Attorney
Kevin Lyons, and Bright became a hunter. But he hardly looked like a
vicious killer in court Tuesday afternoon.
Rather, Bright sat nearly emotionless in his jail jumpsuit and
calmly answered questions with "yes, sir" and "no, sir." As Lyons
read from evidence during the plea hearing, and the faces of the
women Bright killed stared down at him from a television monitor,
the man some have dubbed a monster merely sat and listened.
Bright's attorney Jeff Page said Wednesday that his client had
undergone a transformation after more than a year in jail. When he
was first arrested, he wanted the death penalty but as time went on,
he adjusted and resigned himself to his fate.
relative says Bright is sorry.
very remorseful," said the relative, who has visited Bright several
times while he's been incarcerated at the Tazewell County Jail. "He
broke down as soon as he said hi to me. He's never shown his
feelings like that before.
feel really sorry for the families and this brings closure for them.
Hopefully they'll hold onto the good memories and not what Larry
Goldus Jackson wants Bright to never forget what he did.
would like to see him locked up, and I would like to see those
pictures of the women that he murdered (be with him,)," he said.
"They should stay in his cell and remind him every day of what he
did. When he gets up, there are the pictures of these eight ladies.
he goes to sleep, there they are."
June 29, 2006
PEORIA - Those charged with the task of defending admitted serial
killer Larry Bright spent more than $221,000 to spare him the death
According to figures released from the state treasurer's office,
Bright's three attorneys, a mental health expert and investigators
have submitted bills totaling $221,515, said John Hoffman, a
spokesman for the office that administers the Capital Litigation
Trust Fund through which the attorneys and others were paid.
figure doesn't include any submissions from Peoria County State's
Attorney Kevin Lyons though he had previously estimated that his
submissions to the trust fund would be considerably less than by the
so, the cost for Bright's 15-month case is about half that of the
state average of $500,000, Hoffman said.
Bright, who will be 40 next week, pleaded guilty May 30 to murdering
seven women and causing an eighth to die by a drug overdose. He
agreed to give up all his appeal rights and be sentenced to life in
prison in exchange for Lyons not seeking the death penalty.
his case gone to trial, it would have likely cost tens of thousands
more, said Jeffrey Page of Springfield, one of Bright's attorneys.
Under state law, the trust fund will reimburse attorneys for their
time at a rate of $141.71 an hour. Also reimbursed are work-related
expenses such as travel and copying, among other things.
fund was created in 2000 to help both sides recoup the costs
associated with capital cases and to insure that a defendant would
have the best possible defense if the case were to go to trial.
just obscene that I would even comment on where I think our case
would fit into the state average because I can't get by how
outrageous and nutty the state average is . . . The figures tell me
that whenever the state is paying, the case will be milked like a
cow," Lyons said.
he credited Page and others for pursuing the plea agreement, saying
the pot of state money encourages defense attorneys to string cases
out rather than resolve them.
far, $17.2 million has been paid out statewide since the trust fund
was created. That excludes Cook County, which handles its own
finances because of the sheer number of cases there.
most expensive trust fund case has been the 2004 trial of Cecil
Sutherland, who was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a
10-year-old girl. That case, held in Jefferson County, resulted in
$2.3 million in bills to the trust fund.
admits there are lawyers who abuse the system, but said there have
been safeguards put in place to prevent that. Still, he said, money
should not be a factor when a life is at stake.
those who gawk at the high price, Page has the answer.
you need to put pressure on the Legislature and your governor and
try to persuade them to get rid of the death penalty if you think it
costs too much," he said.
Peoria County, there have been two death penalty cases besides
Bright since the fund was established - Jarvis Neely and Jayson
was convicted of killing a Peoria police officer and sentenced to
life in prison. His case took 22 months and cost $123,752.
Schertz pleaded guilty in June 2004 to fatally shooting a rural
Chillicothe woman while high on crack cocaine. He was sentenced to
53 years in prison. The total bill for his case was $69,139, none of
which went to Lyons' office.
prosecutor billed the state $10,979 in the Neely case, most of which
was travel-related expenses as the trial was moved to Springfield
because of pre-trial publicity.
one gets Bright reward
Remember that $20,000 reward offered during the hunt for Peoria's
latest serial killer?
Larry Bright, 40, pleaded guilty last month, and he'll spend the
rest of his days behind bars. Authorities are done with his case.
it doesn't look as if anyone is going to get any reward money,
Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy said Monday.
says police fielded more than 1,000 tips in the investigation into
the slayings of 10 Peoria women - eight of whom were killed by
Bright. But most of those calls involved tiny snippets of
information, like, "He drove a red car" or "He has a mustache."
says, "No one said, 'It's Larry Bright.'"
doesn't think the money - put up equally by Peoria and Tazewell
counties - will be paid out.
doesn't sit well with Vicki Bomar. She thinks she helped police
plenty, especially with grand jury testimony that preceded his
indictment on murder charges.
not really about the money," she says. "It's about the justice
Still, she admits, "I'd like to get a share. ... If there's other
women who played a part (in Bright's arrest), it should be divided
among us all."
36, crossed paths with Bright one night in August 2004 while she
worked as a streetwalker near Harrison Homes.
stranger in a blue pickup, later identified as Bright, offered her
$200 and crack cocaine in exchange for sex.
went back to his home, on nearby Starr Court, where at knifepoint he
beat and raped her. Afterward, he ordered her to get dressed and
accompany him to his truck.
outside, instinct told her to run. Bright raced after her in his
truck. Luckily, Bomar saw a woman in a car, whom she stopped. Bomar
told the woman she'd been raped, so the driver gave Bomar a ride
However, Bomar did not contact police. She says she feared an arrest
on two outstanding warrants: one for failure to appear on a traffic
count, the other on a disorderly conduct charge.
had heard word on the street that police were looking for
information about a potential serial killer targeting prostitutes.
But she says she didn't think a South Sider like Bright could be the
didn't think he would live so close," Bomar says.
months later, Bomar was living at the South Side Mission when she
told other residents there about her knifepoint rape attack. Those
residents, well aware of the intensifying hunt for the serial
killer, told cops to talk to Bomar. Prompted by police, she
recounted her scary run-in.
Nowadays, Bomar, who recently got out of prison on a theft charge,
says she lives a cleaner lifestyle. She resides with a daughter in
Peoria and helps look after grandchildren.
says she is "just trying to live right for God."
what about the money?
Sheriff McCoy has acknowledged that Bomar's information helped
police pinpoint Bright.
think she was an integral part of the investigation," he said last
year. "She was very descriptive."
However, he has two reservations about giving any money to Bomar.
one, she wasn't the only one to relay harrowing encounters with
Bright. But more importantly, neither Bomar nor no one else with key
information came forward voluntarily; police had to pressure them
reluctance still baffles McCoy. Investigators and community
activists had put out the word that police didn't care about
prostitutes' outstanding warrants; they only wanted information. The
sheriff can't believe that prostitutes, who make as little as $20
per sex act, didn't jump at the offer of big money.
put up $20,000 thinking people would beat down our door," he says.
that money has gone untouched. McCoy can't see it going anywhere,
certainly not to Bomar.
didn't come to us," he says. "She didn't want us around her."
Moreover, and though McCoy won't talk about this, two of Bright's
victims died after Bomar's run-in with Bright. We'll never know what
would've happened if she'd gone to police right away.
Meanwhile, the $20,000 sits in an account, which is overseen by
McCoy, Tazewell County Sheriff Bob Huston and Peoria County State's
Attorney Kevin Lyons. They haven't decided yet what to do with the
money, such as whether to return it to each county.
However, there's one more option.
reminded McCoy that at the time the reward was offered, the roster
of murdered women included Wanda Jackson, found dead outside
Pottstown in March 2001, and Frederickia Brown, found dead near
Hanna City in February 2004.
Bright did not confess to those slayings. Police don't think he
killed them, either.
asked McCoy: what if someone were to provide information leading to
an arrest in those two unsolved cases?
"That's a good question," he says. "I guess if someone came forward,
I'd fight for them" to get the reward.