Editor's note: The story has been edited to reflect the names of the witnesses have been removed to protect their identity.
KANKAKEE — Details of the night a Pembroke Township man was shot and killed came to light during the testimony of two witnesses in the trial of James E. Beals on Wednesday.
Beals, 58, is accused of shooting and killing Ralph Ledet, 46, of Pembroke Township in the early morning hours of Oct. 1, 2016. Beals is facing two counts of first-degree murder.
Testimony continued today before Kankakee County Judge Kathy Bradshaw-Elliott.
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.
Witness 1 (W1) was with Ledet and Beals on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2016. He testified he met with Ledet and Beals at a known drug house in Pembroke.
During questioning from Hamer, W1 said he bought heroin at the trailer and used it. Ledet was in another area of the trailer with Witness 2 (W2), an admitted drug dealer. W2 also testified Wednesday and said Beals bought crack cocaine.
Beals had a gun in his waistband, W2 said. He wanted to see it because he was looking to buy the same model — a 9-mm pistol.
W2 said Ledet did not do any drugs. Instead, Ledet rapped with W2 and had a book with rap music he had written.
Ledet, Beals and W1 left around midnight, W2 said. Ledet was not with Beals and W1 when they returned to the trailer. W2 did say Reuben Bishop was with them when they came back.
W1 was unsure of the time they left the trailer in Beals’ 1997 Ford Explorer, which he said sounded loud because of the muffler. The trio were going to steal a cattle gate from an abandoned property in the area of 17250E Road.
After they arrived, W1 said he and Ledet used bolt cutters to take the gate down. Beals went on the other side of the gate and W1 said he heard a gunshot.
“I thought someone was shooting at us,” he said.
W1 said the three got back into the vehicle without taking the gate. Beals was driving with Ledet as the front seat passenger and W1 in the back seat behind him.
Without any warning, W1 said Beals pulled out a gun and shot Ledet in the head. Ledet slumped against the door and was moaning. Beals got out of the vehicle and walked around to the passenger side and opened the door. W1 said Beals pointed the gun at Ledet’s face and shot him again.
W1 said he did not help Beals remove Ledet’s body from the vehicle. He got back in and drove off.
“[Beals] didn’t say anything. I thought he was going to kill me,” W1 said.
Before heading back to W1’s car, W1 said Beals stopped at another house. Beals then got back in and was driving when W1 said he jumped out of the vehicle and walked back to his car.
During cross examination, Bart Beals asked W1 why he didn’t get out of the vehicle and run while Beals was still in the house.
“I was still trying to comprehend everything. I did not think about getting shot,” W1 said. “I don’t know why I didn’t run.”
Bart Beals asked W1 if he was trying to protect Bishop.
“I saw that man [Beals] shoot [Ledet],” W1 said.
Bart Beals asked if he was sure since he had taken heroin.
“I’m telling the truth. I am not leaving anything out,” W1 said.