Weems pleads not guilty to first-degree murder charge in connection to May 2023 shooting on Jefferson

Weems arraignment

Victor Weems leans back and closes his eyes during his arraignment Tuesday morning in Adams County Circuit Court. At left is Matt Wayman, Weems' attorney. | Pool photo by Matt Hopf/The Herald-Whig

QUINCY — A Quincy man facing first-degree murder charges pled not guilty Tuesday morning.

Victor Weems, 20, was arraigned in Adams County Circuit Court on Tuesday morning before Judge Tad Brenner. Matt Wayman with the Hammer Law Firm in St. Louis was there to represent Weems on the first-degree murder charge.

When Brenner asked if he would be entering an appearance in multiple other cases involving Weems, Wayman replied, “I asked the family about entering my appearance in the other cases, and at this time, I will not be entering my appearance in the other cases.”

Christopher Pratt with the Adams County Public Defender’s office was assigned to the other Weems cases. He is scheduled to make his first appearance with Weems at a Feb. 6 hearing.

Weems was arrested Jan. 1 during a raid at an apartment complex at 3100 State. He was formally charged with first-degree murder and aggravated discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle in the May 2023 shooting death of 47-year-old Dana Lawton, who was shot in the head while sitting on the front porch of Pam Droege’s 1112 Jefferson Street home. 

Weems was involved in an altercation near 12th and Jefferson and allegedly fired a shot during the incident. The bullet traveled more than a block and struck Lawton. 

The first-degree charge in a Class M felony and carries a possible sentence of 45 years to natural life in the Illinois Department of Corrections if Weems is found guilty by a jury. A Class M felony typically would have a sentencing range of 20 to 60 years, but Weems’ charge has a 25-year added enhancement since a firearm was used in the murder. Weems would have to serve 100 percent of his sentence.

The charge of aggravated discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle is a Class 1 felony. It carries a possible sentence of four to 15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections if Weems is found guilty by a jury. Weems would have to serve 85 percent of his sentence under the truth in sentencing law.

A bill of indictment filed by an Adams County grand jury on Jan. 25 found reason to believe Weems had committed the two crimes in May.

When Brenner asked if Wayman wanted the case placed on a jury docket, Wayman replied that he wanted to set a 30-day date for status. Weems’ next court appearance is a status hearing on Feb. 27. 

“We have no objection to that continuance tendered to Mr. Wayman,” Eyler said. “I think this goes without saying, but I just want to be clear and remind him that he filed a motion for a speedy trial (on Jan. 25). This continuance is for 30 days … and there’s a 90-day requirement (for a trial) because (Weems) is in custody. We don’t object to this continuance, just so that we’re all on the same page.”

Eyler said he gave Wayman 39 DVDs and a 16-gigabyte hard drive containing interviews conducted as part of his investigation. 

Weems is facing the following charges that were filed on Jan. 3, 2023, in connection with a December 2022 incident:

  • Obstruction of justice/destroying evidence, a Class 4 felony;
  • Causing a child to be endangered, a Class A misdemeanor; 
  • Reckless driving, a Class A misdemeanor.

Weems is facing the following charges that were filed on March 30, 2023, in connection with an incident in the 900 block of Country Club Heights:

  • Home invasion/cause injury, a Class X felony;
  • Aggravated battery to a pregnant person, a Class 3 felony;
  • Criminal damage to property of more than $500 but less than $10,000, a Class 4 felony;
  • Domestic battery/bodily harm, a Class A misdemeanor.

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