Guilty verdict in road-rage murder by former Cook County correctional officer
BY RUTH ANN KRAUSE Post-Tribune correspondent February 21, 2014 5:50PM
Updated: March 23, 2014 6:18AM
A Lake Superior Court jury convicted a former Cook County Jail correctional officer of murder in last-year’s road-rage shooting.
Jurors rejected a self-defense claim by Edgar Novera Singleton Jr. and returned the guilty verdict after about two and a half hours of deliberations. Judge Salvador Vasquez scheduled a March 14 sentencing hearing. Singleton faces 45 to 65 years in prison.
On Friday, Singleton, 61, testified he saw the victim, Montrell Moss, with a gun in his hand after he said Moss had thrown a soft-drink cup at him and called him a “bitch ass officer.”
“I threw my hands up and said, ‘What did I do to you?’” Singleton recalled. Questioned by defense attorney Philip King, Singleton described how he saw Moss reach to the floor of his older-model blue Buick LeSabre. Singleton said Moss bumped his left arm on the steering wheel and then the gun fell out of his hand.
“I saw the gun so I reached, pulled out my gun and shot,” said Singleton, a soft-spoken man with a full gray beard who wore a dark suit, tan shirt and patterned tie on Friday.
Singleton, a member of the Cook County Sheriff’s department corrections division for 22 years, including about 18 years working as a guard in the Cook County Jail, said he was in fear for his life after seeing the gun and because of three prior incidents in which he was assaulted or threatened in uniform in 2002, 2006 and 2007.
Moss’ girlfriend, Shimeka Robinson, said Singleton was the driver of a gold minivan that had cut them off twice in traffic on Indianapolis Boulevard as they drove north. She said Moss was “pissed” at the way Singleton was driving and decided to throw a nearly empty Burger King cup at the van. She said Moss rolled down the window, called the driver a “bitch,” threw the cup at the van and drove off. The van caught up with them at the stoplight at Casino Center Drive near Horseshoe Casino. Police found the cup, with Moss’ DNA on the straw, in the middle seats of the van.
Neither Robinson nor Moss was looking at the van when it backed up in the left-turn lane, their windows almost even, as they waited at the light in the adjacent lane. Robinson identified Singleton as the man who shot Moss, 23, of East Chicago, her boyfriend of five years.
During cross-examination by deputy prosecutor Michael Woods, Singleton acknowledged that none of the photos of the car or crime scene showed a handgun. As the daylight faded on Aug. 8, 2013, Singleton maintained he could see the gun, about half the size of his 9 mm pistol, near the middle of the front floorboard. He later testified there was a light on inside Moss’ car.
Singleton said Moss was turned away from him as he was reaching down. Dr. John Cavanaugh, a forensic pathologist with the Lake County coroner’s office, said Moss was shot just below his collar bone on the front of his left shoulder.
Responding to a juror question, Singleton said he was wearing a plain windbreaker over his jail guard uniform. Jurors also asked why Singleton would back up at the intersection, and later follow the car as it drove into the nearby Luke gas station, where it crashed into a gas pump. “I wasn’t sure if I hit him until he hit the gas pump, so I went to the minimart to ask them to call 911,” he said.
In his closing argument, King argued his client was justified in using deadly force because he believed he was in imminent danger after seeing the gun in Moss’ hand. “If this is a road rage case, all of the rage is in that blue car. All of the fear is in the gold van,” King said.
In his closing argument, Woods said Moss did something stupid and immature by throwing the cup, but Singleton pulled up next to the car and “ambushed” Moss. “This wasn’t self-defense. It was murder, pure and simple.”
John Cantrell and Munster attorneys Kevin Smith and Steve Sersic are suing Cook County and the Cook County Sheriff’s Department on behalf of the victim’s estate.
“On behalf of Montréal’s family and loved ones, they want to thank deputy prosecutor Michael Woods, the Hammond Police Department and Detective Shawn Ford for all their hard work,” Cantrell said.