KANKAKEE — The trial of James E. Beals began Tuesday in Kankakee County court with testimony from the man who called 911 after hearing a loud vehicle and then shots fired at 1 a.m. on Oct. 1, 2016, in Pembroke Township.
In the incident, Beals, 58, is accused of shooting and killing Ralph Ledet, 46, of Pembroke Township. He was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service in Benton Harbor, Mich., in March 2017 and has been jailed since with a $1 million bail. Now, Beals is facing two counts of first-degree murder.
A day after Ledet was found dead, deputies were back in Pembroke after a family member discovered the bodies of three men — Reginald Neal, 56, and his two sons, Dangelo Neal, 24, and Davante Hopkins, 21 — who had been shot multiple times in the head inside their home on 15500E Road. Ledet also lived at the home.
There were no signs of forced entry, and the victims were found in different parts of the home, sheriff officials said at the time. No arrests have been made in that case.
Police at the time said the four homicides appeared to be related due to the nature of the killings.
First Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Kosman and Assistant State’s Attorney Erika Hamer are prosecuting the case. Beals is represented by Chicago attorneys Bart Beals and Cierra Norris. James Beals and Bart Beals are not related.
According to police, deputies responded to a 911 call for shots fired in the area of 17250E Road where they found the body of Ledet lying in a driveway of an abandoned house trailer. He had been shot twice in his head by a 9-mm pistol.
A homeowner who lives in the area called 911 after hearing two shots. In his testimony, the witness — who is not being identified by the Daily Journal — said there was a third shot as he was on the phone with a dispatcher.
He said he was trying to fall asleep when he heard a “vehicle not running well.” The vehicle stopped running, then there was the sound of gunfire.
The vehicle started up again. He said he saw the vehicle’s tail lights as it headed south. He testified it was an older model vehicle but was not sure of the make.
During cross examination by Norris, the witness was asked about a meeting he had with a group of men around 3 p.m. Sept. 30.
A man known by the nickname “Slick,” told the witness he was buying the property where the shooting occurred. He said he knew that was not true.
Asked about the vehicle Slick was in, the witness said it did not sound like the one he heard at 1 a.m. when the shots were fired. He said that was the only time he saw the man.
Beals’ trial will continue today before Kankakee County Judge Kathy Bradshaw-Elliott.