Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

December 18, 2013

$1M bond set for woman charged in missing man's death

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — The woman accused of killing an Effingham man missing for more than two years told police she became angry after the man admitted giving drugs that caused the overdose death of her husband.

Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler said Christine Burr, 57, now of rural Dieterich, admitted to police Monday that she threw a pot of boiling water at Joe C. Delaney before fatally stabbing him in the chest.

Kibler revealed that information during a probable cause hearing Wednesday in Judge Sherri Tungate's courtroom. It was a tip from a Chicago-area police department that led local police to three area people accused of being involved in the death and/or concealment of an Effingham man who had been missing sometime after July 1, 2011.

After Kibler's presentation, Tungate found probable cause to detain Burr, 57, on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of concealing a homicidal death. Burr's daughter, Kristy Lynn Mathis, 40, and Mathis' boyfriend Zebadiah R. Houser, 25, were ordered to be held on one count each of concealing a homicidal death.

Tungate set bond for Burr at $1 million, Bond was set for the other two defendants at $200,000 each.

The judge also appointed attorneys for each of the three suspects. Public Defender Scott Schmidt was appointed to represent Burr, while Richard Runde was appointed to represent Houser and former Public Defender Lupita Thompson was appointed to represent Mathis. Tungate set first appearances with counsel for 11 a.m. Monday.

A walker found human remains of what is believed to be Delaney, 54 at the time of his disappearance, near the Embarras River about a half-mile east of Illinois 130 the following March.

But the case went nowhere, Kibler said, until Evergreen Park police in suburban Chicago received a tip Dec. 2 about a possible homicide in Effingham County. Effingham police were alerted to the tip and began working the case in conjunction with the Illinois State Police.

The tip indicated the deceased was a man by the name of Joe Miller, who lived with Burr at Colonnade apartment complex in Effingham. The person providing the tip indicated Joe Miller had been stabbed by Burr and his body was buried in the woods by Burr's daughter. After further investigation, it was determined Joe Miller was actually a man by the name of Joe C. Delaney. Delaney's digital fingerprint ended sometime in 2011 and no one knew his whereabouts.

Kibler said Det. Aaron Lange of the Effingham Police Department and Sgt. Albert Gallatin of the Illinois State Police would have testified that Delaney was identified after it was noted his photograph resembled a facial reconstruction of the "John Doe" found near the river on March 10, 2012. Moreover, Kibler said, both Delaney and "Doe" wore glasses and neither had any teeth. The prosecutor added that Delaney was known to wear dentures.

According to Kibler, Mathis and Houser were living together in Effingham. Moreover, he said, Houser is a native of Willow Hill and the road near where the remains were found is commonly known as the "back way" between Newton and Willow Hill.

Kibler said Mathis told police that she had witnessed Delaney's death in Burr's apartment at the Colonnade apartment complex in Effingham and helped dispose of the body. Mathis, according to police, said she and Houser had been invited to the Burr-Delaney apartment for dinner. Mathis corroborated her mother's account ,of the events that led to Delaney's death.

Both Mathis and Houser told police, Kibler said, that they helped Burr load Delaney's body into a van and disposed of the body near the point where the remains were found.

Kibler said police had difficulty determining through the interviews exactly when the killing occurred. The best timeline he could come up with was sometime between July 1, 2011 — when Delaney disappeared — and March 10, 2012, when the remains were found

Burr could receive up to 60 years in prison if convicted of the murder charge, while Mathis and Houser could receive up to five years each for the concealment charges..

Kibler said after the hearing that Delaney, Burr and Mathis all spent significant parts of their lives in the Chicago area.

"He (Delaney) had no local relatives," the prosecutor said. "We're still trying to determine his next of kin."

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