Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

February 24, 2014

Couple charged with helping hide man's body make separate court appearances

EFFINGHAM — The Effingham couple accused of helping dispose of a body made separate appearances today in Effingham County Circuit Court.

Kristy L. Mathis, 40, and Zebadiah R. Houser, 26, are both charged with concealment of a homicidal death. The couple is accused of helping Mathis' mother dispose of Joseph Delaney's body during the summer of 2011. Delaney's remains were found near Newton early last year.

The mother, Christine Burr of Dieterich, is scheduled to stand trial in April on first-degree murder charges in connection with Delaney's death.

Mathis, whose jury trial had been scheduled to begin next month, asked Judge J. Marc Kelly for a delay in her case. Noting the "complexity of the evidence" in the case, Assistant State's Attorney Scott Ealy did not object to Mathis' request.

Kelly set Mathis' next pre-trial hearing for 10 a.m. April 1, with jury selection set for 8:30 a.m. April 14.

Houser also appeared in court today for a scheduled pre-trial hearing. But after he was informed that Conflict Public Defender Richard Runde was still ill, he asked Kelly to appoint a new attorney. The judge originally considered appointing former State's Attorney Ed Deters, now in private practice. But Ealy pointed out that Houser had been prosecuted in Effingham County during Deters' 12 years in office, creating a potential conflict of interest.

Kelly then appointed attorney Lance Freezeland to represent Houser and ordered the defendant to return to court at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Both Mathis and Houser have been jailed since their December arrests.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com

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