Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

December 23, 2013

Three plead not guilty in connection with Delaney death

Tony Huffman
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Three suspects pleaded not guilty Monday in connection to the murder of Joe C. Delaney who had been missing for two years.

Christine Burr, 57, now of rural Dieterich, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and a fourth count of concealment of death.

Burr is currently being held on $1 million bond after it was revealed in a probable cause hearing last week that she allegedly threw a pot of boiling hot water on Delaney and then fatally stabbed him in the chest.

Kristy Lynn Mathis, 40, and her boyfriend Zebadiah R. Houser, 25, also pleaded not guilty to charges of concealment of a homicide. Both are currently being held on $200,000 bond each.

The two are charged with allegedly assisting Burr in taking Delaney's body and loading it in a van outside Colonnade Apartments, then driving it to rural Jasper County and dumping it in an area north of Newton.

Assistant State's Attorney Scott Ealy informed Judge Kimberly Koester Monday that Mathis and Houser should be eligible for extended prison terms because of prior felony convictions. Houser has been convicted of theft while Mathis has an aggravated battery conviction.

The concealment of death charge carries a minimum two-year and maximum five-year prison term if convicted. However, with an extended term, the two face between five and 10 years in prison, along with 2 1/2 years of probation, said Koester.

A Feb. 10 trial date has been set for all three, with pretrial dates set for Burr at 10 a.m. Jan. 21; Mathis, Jan. 23 at 11 a.m.; and Houser, Jan. 27 at 11 a.m.

The remains of what is believed to be Delaney were found by a walker near the Embarras River about a half-mile east of Illinois 130 in March 2012. Delany is believed to have disappeared in July 2011. A tip to Chicago police earlier this month about a homicide in Effingham County  led to the three suspects' arrests.

Tony Huffman can be reached 217-347-7151 ext. 138 or tony.huffman@effinghamdailynews.com.