Illinois Man Gets 55 Years For Murder

(photo supplied / Kosciusko County Jail)

An Illinois man was sentenced to 55 years in prison Monday for the stabbing death of his cousin.

Derrick Lavelle Wandrick, 36, of Harvey, Ill., was handed the murder sentence by Kosciusko Circuit Court Judge Michael Reed as part of a plea agreement. Wandrick’s plea gives him 55 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections, with 729 days credit. He’s also ordered to pay $2,567 in restitution to the victim’s family for funeral expenses.

Wandrick stabbed his cousin, David Lamont Strowder Jr., 63 times on Oct. 23, 2017, and left him for dead in a ditch in the area of 1006 W. CR 300N.

A motive is not known because Wandrick claims he has no recollection of the incident. Reed said that “blows his mind.”

Heavy police presence was in the courtroom during Monday’s sentencing, and Wandrick’s attorney, Jay Rigdon, called Wandrick’s mother to the stand.

Shirley Davis told Reed that her son was a good child and never was in any trouble growing up. She also said her son graduated high school and played football and was close with her and her daughter.

“He followed the rules,” Davis said. “He was always real quiet, but always had a heart of gold.”

Davis said Wandrick would help her with her oldest son, who is disabled, but after he graduated high school and got a job as a stocker at Walmart, she began to see a change in him.

“He started saying, ‘Mom, I think the guys at work are gonna do something to me,’” she testified. She said he also began to withdraw from the family and started not trusting anyone.

Davis speculated that because her brother is diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, perhaps that’s something Wandrick was plagued with, but she didn’t know.

“This is not my son,” she told Reed. “What he did, I don’t know if he got ahold of some drugs and he’s out of control and just snapped, I don’t know. This was his cousin who was brought up like brothers.”

The victim’s family was present, but declined to speak.

Kosciusko County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Hampton said that Strowder was found at approximately 7:45 p.m. that day when a homeowner came out of his home and heard someone yelling, “Help, I’ve been stabbed!”

Hampton said the homeowner saw Strowder with severe stab wounds and crying out in pain. The homeowner ran inside to get a phone and when he came back out, Strowder was no longer breathing.

Hampton said Wandrick had a girlfriend in Kosciusko County, “so that’s how the violence came down into our county.”

Hampton cited Wandrick’s own mother’s testimony and said they were cousins, almost like brothers.

“That night, the level of violence that Derrick Wandrick committed against his cousin was horrific,” Hampton said, and then began counting out all 63 stab wounds and their locations.

Strowder had eight stab wounds to the chest; 10 in the right neck; four in the lower right flank of the abdomen; five in the lower left side; 13 in the left flank of the body; nine in the back; five in the left hip; five in the right arm; and five in the left arm. Hampton said results showed the injuries on Strowder’s hands and forearms were defensive wounds.

When police located Wandrick the next day, Wandrick had scratches on his body.

“The family asks you to put the nightmare to rest,” Hampton told Reed, “by sentencing him to 55 years in prison.”

Because of the sheer violence of the crime, Hampton said any mitigating factors the defense may present are far outweighed by the aggravating factor of the case. Hampton also noted that Strowder was 21 years old and 150 pounds.

“You can see by Derrick’s weight, he was overwhelmed.”

Wandrick is 5 foot, 9 inches and weighs 230 pounds.

“We don’t get this kind of violence very often in our county,” Hampton said. “But when it comes to Kosciusko County, we have to hold the people accountable.”

Rigdon told the judge that in this case, “What he did is clear. Why he did it remains a mystery,” and said his client continues to indicate he has no memory of what went on.

Rigdon pointed out that Wandrick has no criminal history, has a child, has a family that cares about him, has a high school diploma, had a job – all things Rigdon argued were mitigating factors.

He asked Reed to sentence Wandrick to 45 years executed in the IDOC, with 10 years suspended to formal probation.

“He is as sorry as sorry can be,” Rigdon said. “He’s got a family member who is no longer alive and he doesn’t have a clue why.”

Wandrick declined to comment when asked by Reed for a statement.

Reed noted that Wandrick has no criminal record, but said this offense speaks for itself.

“You took a man’s life. That’s the ultimate crime in society – both legally and morally,” Reed said. “You apparently can’t remember what happened. I could speculate that drugs were involved, but there’s not a shred of evidence about that.” Reed also said there’s no evidence of a mental illness as was speculated by his mother.

“I really never heard from you that you’re sorry,” Reed told him. “I never heard any remorse from you, sir. To do something like that to someone you’re close with, with no explanation blows my mind.”

Hampton said because of good time credit and possible programs Wandrick could participate in prison, his actual prison time will be in the range of 34 to 49 years.