A fifth-floor courtroom at the Rock Island County Justice Center exploded in tears and cheers Monday as a 22-year-old was acquitted in the death of a baby.
Mateo Williams, 22, of Rock Island, was tried last week in a bench trial for first-degree murder in the March 2020 death of 4-month-old Elias S. Austin. The child suffered multiple fractures and died of blunt-force trauma to the skull, reports showed.
Williams was in a relationship with the baby’s mother, who also has been charged.
Circuit Judge Peter W. Church on Monday declared Williams not guilty, prompting shouts of relief from members of his family and a collection of friends who attended the hearing.
As Williams turned away from the defense table, he wiped tears from his face.
Outside the courtroom, his attorney, Drew Larson, gently admonished Williams’ family for their reactions to the verdict, saying, “This is not a time for celebration. This is a sad time, no matter how you look at it.”
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Family and friends shook their heads in agreement.
The infant’s mother, Tanda Allee, 25, also of Rock Island, faces a first-degree murder charge. She is scheduled to enter a plea on Thursday, court records show. She testified last week as a witness for the state.
Both the prosecution and defense rested their cases on Thursday, and the judge on Monday said the case was “well-tried by both sides.”
Rock Island police officers were called about 9:21 a.m. on March 10, 2020, to the 400 block of 12th Avenue for a report of the suspicious sudden death of a baby, according to Rock Island Police Department reports filed at the time. The death is thought to have happened around 8 p.m. the previous day.
While Williams was to be released following a traffic-citation matter out of Henry County, Allee remained in custody on a $2 million, cash-only bond, court records state.