Authorities haven’t said what led Michael Trone to the Sleep Inn.
Trone’s body was found Sept. 7 in a room at the hotel at 3470 Freedom Drive, barely a mile from his Westchester home. Two men and two women have been charged with first-degree murder. Authorities say that Trone was beaten and strangled. It was, according to prosecutors, a robbery that turned into something worse – authorities say that the defendants stole Trone’s bicycle.
Retired from the pizza business, Trone, 53, ran a wellness center on Wabash Avenue that offered smoothies, yoga classes and weight-loss programs. Trone himself appeared on his business’s website as an example of what exercise and eating right can accomplish. After six months of healthy eating and exercise, he wrote, with accompanying before-and-after photos, that he’d lost 45 pounds. “I feel younger and more energetic than I did 20 years ago.”
On the surface, Trone would seem to have had little in common with his accused killers. He lived in Springfield for most of his adult life, with just two traffic tickets on his record in Sangamon County. A member of St. Agnes church and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Trone left behind two children and a spouse whom he married in 1987.
Inside, however, Trone’s veins coursed with fentanyl and morphine, according to toxicology reports, a telltale sign of heroin use. Two of his accused killers, James Lyman and Chad Martin, have histories of drug use, and worse, according to court records and police reports.
Lyman, 33, has a record in Sangamon County going back to 2002 that includes four prison stints for burglary and robbery. He was most recently sentenced to 10 years after pleading guilty to burglary in 2011.
Martin, 38, has a felony record in Sangamon County dating to 2001, when he was charged with forgery, drug offenses and damage to property. He pleaded guilty to methamphetamine-related charges and got a two-year sentence. In 2004, he was returned to prison after pleading guilty to identity theft charges. In 2011, he got busted in California while attempting to smuggle two Mexicans over the border in a Nissan Quest equipped with a special compartment – he said he’d gotten paid $2,000. Within weeks of being sentenced to 27 months in California, Sangamon County prosecutors dismissed pending charges of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and possession of meth-making materials. Local prosecutors dismissed misdemeanor charges of shoplifting and theft in 2011 and 2014. It’s not clear why from court records.
Martin landed in trouble again in the summer of 2017, when he was charged with robbing a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop on Dirksen Parkway – he’d used a BB gun according to police reports, and zip-tied an employee to a food rack. He also was charged with burglary – prosecutors say that he’d been breaking into storage units. When police caught up to him the day after the Jimmy John’s heist, officers found more than $700 in quarters in his 1997 Ford Explorer, along with heroin, methamphetamine and hypodermic needles. According to police, Martin and his brother also had burglarized a coin-op laundry and used a power grinder to break into a change machine.
Martin’s legal woes deepened last January, when he was charged with aggravated battery and mob action for an incident in the Sangamon County jail. With no job and bond totaling $530,000, he’d been convicted of felonies at least four times and had an equal number pending. Then, last March, Martin walked free, released on his own recognizance. It’s not clear why, but multiple sources tell Illinois Times that Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Madonia freed Martin based on a promise to help cops solve other crimes.
Martin suggested to officers that he could lead police to bigger fish when they arrested him in 2017.
“He told me it was only $500 that they got,” an officer who arrested Martin after the sandwich shop robbery reported. “He said he could help narcotics investigators with something that is better than someone taking $500.”
Daniel Fultz, Martin’s lawyer in the robbery and burglary matters, declined comment. The court docket shows that Madonia freed Martin over the objection of prosecutors. Sangamon County state’s attorney Daniel Wright said that he could not comment on the judge’s rationale for releasing Martin.
“The reason for our objection (to release) was the serious nature of the charges at the time and his criminal history,” Wright said.
After the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center wouldn’t accept Martin, he was given drugs that are supposed to help curb addiction and released from jail. He initially was supposed to stay home, but conditions were relaxed so that he could attend church on Sundays and subsequently eased further so that he only had to be home at nights, between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. each day. On Aug. 30, eight days before Trone was found dead, Martin cut an electronic monitoring band from his ankle, prosecutors say, and vanished.
Police found Martin four days after the killing. He was with his girlfriend, Callie Pierce, 23, in the home where she lived on East Keys Avenue. She, also, has been charged with first-degree murder, as has Brandy Tate, 29. Each of the accused are being held on $2 million bond.
Contact Bruce Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.