Subscribe for 33¢ / day

CHARLESTON -- James Todd Shafer might have felt threatened during a confrontation over a robbery but it wasn't enough to justify firing the shot that killed Ciara Faires.

A jury made that conclusion Tuesday and also decided Shafer knew he was firing at another person, not necessarily Faires, in finding him guilty of first-degree murder and other offenses.

Shafer, 26, of Mattoon was accused of firing two shots from inside an apartment at 313 S. 21st St., Mattoon on June 18, 2016, one of which hit Faires and caused fatal injuries.

On Tuesday, Coles County Circuit Judge Brien O'Brien scheduled Shafer's sentencing hearing for April 20. A prison sentence of 45 years to life is required for the first-degree murder conviction.

Trial evidence showed that three other men were outside the apartment to confront Shafer about not returning a gun he received to commit a robbery, during which one of them might have fired a gun.

Shafer and Faires were at the apartment, where a friend lived, in what Shafer said was an attempt to hide from the other men until they could leave the state.

Faires, who was Shafer's girlfriend, was told to leave the apartment because of an argument that took place, according to the trial evidence. She was still outside when the others arrived and when Shafer fired from inside through the apartment's door, the evidence showed.

The confrontation was apparently led by Shawn D. Adamson, from whose residence Shafer and another man received the guns for the robbery they were supposed to commit.

During his testimony earlier in the trial, Shafer said he and the other man did go to the intended target's apartment but they didn't take the marijuana and money they were supposed to steal. They left the apartment without returning the guns to the man working with Adamson, he said.

The jury's verdict Tuesday also included guilty of second-degree murder, an offense alleging Shafer felt threatened but his actions in response weren't justified.

The jurors spent almost six hours considering the charges.

The first-degree murder guilty verdict was on a charge alleging Shafer committed an underlying offense, aggravated discharge of a firearm. That accused him of intentionally shooting in the direction of another person or other people, resulting in a death.

Other charges accused Shafer of shooting intending to kill or harm Faires or another person and he that knew shooting meant a death was likely. Those resulted in the second-degree murder convictions.

Adamson was charged with first-degree murder, mob action and other offenses for allegedly starting the confrontation that led to Faires' death and is scheduled for trial starting Monday.

The other men allegedly involved, Kevin W. Johnson and Matthew S. Cook, both eventually pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

During his closing argument to the jury Tuesday, Assistant State's Attorney Rob Scales said it was "uncontested" that Shafer fired the gun that killed Faires.

He noted Shafer's inconsistencies between his account to police the day of the shooting and his own trial testimony. The evidence didn't support Shafer's claim that he first faced several shots from outside, Scales said, adding that his saying he fired back at the shooter was relevant.

"It doesn't matter that the person hit wasn't the person he wanted to hit," Scales said.

Shafer also told police that, by the time he fired, the people outside were probably gone "but he wants you to believe differently today," Scales added.

Public Defender Anthony Ortega told the jury that Shafer felt he was "a hunted man," as there was evidence that Adamson and the others were looking for him elsewhere before the shooting at the apartment.

Ortega noted evidence that one person outside the apartment, likely Adamson, had a gun and he shot it or it went off while he was knocking on the apartment door. Shafer reacted after looking out a window and seeing what he said was a gun fired, he said.

"What do you think would have happened if Todd had opened that door?" Ortega said. "If a gun goes off outside your door, when do you feel safe?"

In response, State's Attorney Brian Bower said there was no evidence that anyone outside the apartment tried to force their way inside. He said someone looking for a gun "does not equate to a threat of violence" and wasn't enough to justify Shafer's actions.

The jury also returned a guilty verdict on a charge of possession of a weapon by a felon based on Shafer's having the gun and his criminal record. Ortega conceded that Shafer was guilty of that charge and didn't ask the jury to consider otherwise.

Shafer has been jailed since his arrest the day of the shooting. However, on Tuesday O'Brien granted Bower's motion that he be held without bond pending sentencing.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Subscribe to the JG-TC

Reporting like this is brought to you by a staff of experienced local journalists committed to telling the stories of your community.
Support from subscribers is vital to continue our mission.

Become a subscriber

Thank you for subscribing

Your contribution makes local journalism possible.

Load comments