Police: Man used ‘samurai knife’ to stab elderly family member 35 times, murdering her after Bible study

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BELLWOOD, IL – According to reports, a 20-year-old man has been charged with the murder of an elderly woman that occurred on April 1st, with prosecutors alleging that the suspect used a “samurai knife” to stab the victim numerous times inside of her home.

Officials say that the suspect is a relative of the deceased victim.

On April 1st, police say that 76-year-old Jearlean Willingham was killed inside of her home located within the 3800 block of West Van Buren Street in Bellwood by 20-year-old Isaiah Jones.

The victim was described as the “step-great-grandmother” of Jones. The two reportedly lived together and prosecutors allege that Jones spent a majority of his time with Willingham.

During a court hearing on April 4th, it was alleged that Jones, who has been charged with first-degree murder, stabbed Willingham at least 35 times with a “samurai knife” after having concluded a bible study inside of the home.

Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Christina Dracopoulos stated during the hearing that the victim’s daughter was the one to have discovered her body inside of the home.

Jones was then said to have taken the victim’s cell phone, as well envelopes stuffed with cash, before fleeing the residence. A home security camera was said to have captured footage of the suspect wearing a distinct pair of red shoes, which likely helped authorities identify the suspect.

Authorities reportedly caught up with Jones five hours after the murder and placed him under arrest.

When police took Jones into custody, officers reportedly found in his possession some disassembled pieces of a handgun, a knife, and $525 cash that was inside of the envelopes he allegedly took from inside of the victim’s home.

Investigators say that they’ve been unable to locate the “samurai knife” that was allegedly used to commit the murder; however, Jones reportedly confessed to murdering Willingham.

During the April 4th hearing, Cook County Judge Susana Ortiz reportedly refused bail for Jones, specifically citing the “viciousness” of the alleged offense carried out by the defendant.

Greg LaPapa, the attorney representing Jones in the case, says that Jones was an employee at a local clothing store and was working toward securing his GED prior to the alleged murder.

LaPapa claims that the surveillance footage obtained by investigators that allegedly depicts his client does not show Jones’ face.

This is a developing investigation.

Please follow Law Enforcement Today as we continue to gather further insight into this case.

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Law Enforcement Today recently reported on another fatal stabbing that occurred in California earlier in April. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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RIVERSIDE, CA– Brutal attacks against Asian people has become an increasing problem in this country. The latest incident in California left an Asian woman dead after she was stabbed to death. 

On Saturday, April 3rd, 64-year-old Ke Chieh Meng was stabbed to death as she walked her dogs in a Riverside neighborhood. Shortly after the attack, a 23-year-old transient woman was arrested on suspicion of her murder.

According to the Riverside Police Department, officers received several calls of a woman down on Golden Avenue, near Stonewall Drive in the La Sierra neighborhood, around 7:30 a.m. When police arrived, the woman was found bleeding.

Meng, who police say was “randomly confronted and attacked” by the suspect, was taken to a local hospital with stab wounds to her abdomen. She would later succumbed to her injuries.

Meng’s son, Yi Bai said of his mothers passing:

“My heart… it felt like it was getting torn in half. I’m an only child too. My mother came here to this country to give me my American dream,” 

According to a press release from the department:

“Shortly after, our dispatch center began receiving calls from neighbors reporting a transient woman walking through their yards and appearing suspicious,” 

ABC7 reported that officers checked the area and detained the suspect, Darlene Stephanie Montoya from Monterey Park. She was later booked for murder, weapons violation and suspicion of being under the influence of an illegal substance. She is being held without bail.

Authorities believe at this time that the attack was carried out randomly, and it is not a direct result of the fact that Meng was Asian. 

Officer Ryan Railsback said:

“The suspect is homeless from LA County and is obviously experiencing mental health and substance abuse issues,” 

He added:

“the attack could have happened to anyone.”

Meng’s murder could have been avoided, as her attacker was in police custody just several days prior, but was released due to extremely flawed COVID-19 bail protocols.

On Tuesday, March 30th, Montoya was arrested by Riverside police on the suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after she allegedly attacked a woman with a skateboard on Tyler Avenue at the 91 Freeway, according to police.

She was booked and released with a Notice to Appear citation due to an emergency bail schedule prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meng’s son wants to know why Montoya was released in the first place, allowing her to harm another innocent individual. 

Bai said:

“To have her go out into the streets again — it was just a few days ago that this happened, not a year ago, where they could say that her mental situation had changed,” 

Family members say they hope lawmakers and leaders consider who they’re letting out of jail under new pandemic protocols, NBC4 reported

Bai said:

“I hope they can see from this incident, this person or these people who are getting let out, for clearly a violent, criminal act, I mean… what if it was their daughter?” 

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