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Life plus 26 years, no parole for Sandwich man who committed Sheridan double murder

Donald Fredres did not testify at his April murder trial and he had nothing to say at his Friday sentencing hearing, either.

When asked if he wished to make a statement, the 38-year-old Sandwich man remained seated in a La Salle County courtroom and replied, “Uh – no, sir.”

But an apology or show of remorse wouldn’t have made any difference, at least with respect to sentencing. From the moment a jury convicted him of the March 2021 murders of Gregory and Brenda Barnes, both 62, in their Sheridan home, Fredres faced a statutory sentence of automatic natural life behind bars.

Friday, the final tally came to life plus 26 years for trying to kill ex-wife. Murder and attempted murder are subject to back-to-back sentences and Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. tacked on the minimum 26 years for the shots that missed his ex-wife, who nonetheless sustained minor injuries from flying debris.

La Salle County State’s Attorney Todd Martin asked for even more time for attempted murder, citing the potential for greater harm when Fredres fired into her door.

“There were not only two adults in the house but there were three children, two of which were the defendant’s biological children,” Martin said. “Without any regard for anyone in that house, the defendant fired blindly through the door of that home.

“What is (her) life going to be like going forward and what will the children’s lives be like going forward?”

Todd Martin, La Salle County state’s attorney, reacts to Friday’s life-plus sentence for Donald Fredres, who committed a double murder in Sheridan. (Tom Collins)

Fredres and Ottawa defense attorney Ryan Hamer filed a notice to appeal but otherwise spent Friday’s brief hearing (less than half an hour) arguing for a new trial — a necessary step to ready the case for appeal.

Hamer cited a few alleged errors at trial, led by the admission of “gruesome” photos admitted over defense objection — “It made it impossible for my client to get a fair trial” — as well as what he called a lack of direct forensic evidence linking Fredres to the murders.

In response, Martin said the photos were both admissible and permissible despite the gory contents — “It’s a murder case, we have to consider that” — and argued there was plenty of evidence, led by a taped statement from Fredres, linking the Barnes’ murders to their former son-in-law.

“There is absolutely no doubt that this defendant committed these offenses,” Martin said.

Judge Ryan denied the motion for new trial; but this at least clears the way for Fredres to take his case to an appeals court.

Friday’s proceedings might have taken longer, and been more hotly contested, had the Sheridan murders happened prior to the abolition of capital punishment in Illinois in 2011. Fredres would have been eligible for death for multiple murders and because the victims were in a “protected class,” in this case seniors over 60 years of age.

A jury wasted little time convicting him. Fredres had admitted in a videotaped statement to police he went looking for his ex-wife and questioned his in-laws, at gunpoint, about their whereabouts.

“I didn’t think anything was going to happen,” Fredres told police.

But Brenda and Gregory Barnes Sr. were found shot to death on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day 2021 and prosecutors persuaded a jury the situation didn’t simply spin out of control. They produced evidence of premeditation, noting Fredres showed up at Johnson’s door with 38 bullets, nine of which he put through her door.

Earlier in the day, Fredres bought additional ammunition, drafted a suicide note and began an armed search for his ex-wife that led first to her parents’ home. Those shootings, Martin said, were not accidental or random.

“There’s no way to sugarcoat this: This guy planned this thing out,” Martin said at the conclusion of the jury trial.

Friday, Martin said he was “satisfied” with the verdict and unsurprised Fredres declined to make any kind of statement.

“I mean, what’s he going to say, ‘I’m sorry’?”

Donald Fredres (right) speaks to Ottawa defense attorney Ryan Hamer during his Friday, July 1, 2022, sentencing hearing for the double murder of his former-in laws. Fredres was sentenced to life, plus 26 years.

Donald Fredres (right) speaks to Ottawa defense attorney Ryan Hamer during his Friday, July 1, 2022, sentencing hearing for the double murder of his former-in laws. Fredres was sentenced to life, plus 26 years. (Tom Sistak for Shaw Media/)

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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