Mueller Sentenced to 37 Years

Judge Richard Aguirre presided over seventeen-year-old Robbie Mueller’s sentencing hearing last Thursday morning at the Perry County Courthouse.  Mueller was facing sentencing for his accountability of the first degree murder of Sidnee Stephens in July 2010.  As well as hearing from Perry County State’s Attorney, David Stanton and Mueller’s attorney Charles Stegmeyer, Mueller’s mother, Sidnee Stephen’s mother and Mueller himself addressed the court.

 Mueller’s mother Rhonda Mueller, took the stand and discussed her son’s life previous to his participation in Stephens’ murder.  She began with stating that she was separated from Robbie’s father for three months before he had gone missing and was found murdered.  Robbie was four and five years old when his father went missing and was found dead. “[The situation with his father] slowed down a lot of his development,” Rhonda said.  She went on to talk about Robbie attending counseling and how she wished that she had kept him in the program.  She continued to say that when Robbie was in eighth grade, he made average grades and played basketball.  He also developed a problem with blood sugar around that time.  

Mueller proceeded to wipe away tears as his mother continued her account of her son’s life before he was taken into custody at the Perry County Jail.  Although he was active in sports, he had no connection to friends or transportation due to Rhonda having a car accident.  His basketball coach would drive him to and from practice.  She added that Robbie had no prior encounters with the police until being questioned about Stephens’ murder.  She was unaware of his involvement in the “group”.  

She noted that “the preacher’s grandson took Robbie to get involved with the boys when Robbie had just turned fifteen.  He had only been involved with the “group” for two months before the murder.  She added that “that boy” had bought a four-wheeler and that was why Robbie was with them.  She said that her son just wanted friends and was “easily led”.  She said that she had sorrow because she had high hopes for his high school years.  She described her son as “an excellent boy” and that she was shocked and surprised to learn of his involvement.  She said that Robbie was “physically o.k.” the day that he took Stephens life.

Following Rhonda’s testimony, Sidnee’s mother, Tracy Stephens read her victim impact statement aloud in the courtroom.  She described sidnee as “her sunshine” and being a “kind, loving, determined free spirit”.  “When her life was taken so was mine”. stated Stephens.  Mueller was visibly shaken as Stephens spoke.  She went on to describe her sleepless nights and difficulty finding a job due to the attention on her daughter’s death.  She claims that the families of the boys convicted of murdering her daughter have dragged her name through the mud.  “Their tears mean nothing to me,” she said.  “In my opinion they’re pathetic and in need of help,” she described of the boys families.  

Next, Stanton took the floor and began with acknowledging the following three things.  One: Mueller had no prior criminal history.  “I used to cheer him on at the basketball court.” He said that Mueller had been productive despite his hard life.  Two: They had agreed to cap Mueller’s sentence at fifty years due to his cooperation in “filling in blanks in the murder case”.  Three: When Mueller committed the crime he was fifteen.  He added “The person he killed was only fifteen years of age.”

He went on to note that sometime between someone’s arrest and sentencing is “their time.” but the day of sentencing is “the day of reckoning.”  Stanton said that the specific day had been put off for two years and three months.

Stanton explained that murder was the worst crime a person can commit.  He asked the court to take notice of the cases Carl Dane and James Glazier and note that there is not a disparity in Mueller’s.  (Dane and Glazier were both sentenced to sixty years in the murder of Stephens.)  He said that the crime had no motive.  “It was a senseless crime, no rage, jealousy, or hate.”  

He went on to explain that Robbie’s roll in the murder began as the “lookout”.  He stood outside of the door while Dane and Glazier were in the home wrestling Stephens.  He then entered the home to help the other boys choke Stephens when Dane told him.  “Instead of rushing in to commit murder, he should have rushed out to get help,”  explained Stanton.  

He then addressed Robbie’s mother’s statement of how her son was easily influenced.  Stanton described such a trait as being “the scariest”.  He noted the murder as being “cold and evil”.  “He has cried like a little baby here today,” Stanton added.  But he said that those tears were for himself.  He said that Mueller didn’t tell anyone about where Stephen’s body was located because he was afraid that he would get caught.  He had lost a piece of his glove at Beaucoup Creek on Cudgetown Road where he and Glazier had kicked Stephens’ body into the water.  

Stanton asked the court to consider the manner of action Mueller took before and after the murder was committed and to consider what Sidnee went through until she was dead.  He said that Sidnee suffered.  She was choked because she was crying and screaming for help as she was being wrestled in her home and dragged out of her house.  The boys noted that she didn’t have a pulse when they dragged her across a creek to the bridge.  When Mueller and Glazier kicked her off of the bridge, they waited until they “heard a splash”.  They did not know if she was dead at that time.  Stanton said that after her body had been in the creek for seven days, they could not identify the sex of the body.  

Even though Mueller did not go back to the bridge with Glazier and Dane to be sure the body as submerged, he let the boys use his cell phone.  Stanton also pointed out the emotional harm that was done to the fishermen who discovered her body.  

He went back to talk about the night Stephens was taken from her home.  Stanton said she was asleep in the safety of her own home.  “What was going through her mind,” questioned Stanton.  He then added that Stephens mother would be taking medication for the rest of her life to cope with the experience.  He also said that there was “no peep” out of the boys when Tracy Stephens reported her daughter missing.  

Stanton said that if one is hanging out with a couple of “thugs” and something happens, the situation needs to be rectified.  One should “own up” “Instead of running to police, he ran to kill,”  said Stanton of Mueller.  He also said that Mueller helped Glazier up onto the deck prior to entering the home.  “Only when we made a sweet deal did he decide to come clean” he added.  Stanton concluded his presentation with asking the court to consider giving Mueller the full fifty years.  

Stegmeyer, Mueller’s attorney, followed up Stanton’s address.  He asked the court to look at the judicial system and how it operates.  “We’re not talking about a hardened criminal, but a barely fifteen year old boy who made a tragic decision to be part of a ridiculous club or what-have-you.”   He reiterated that Mueller lost his father, was isolated on a farm and had no one to teach him the difference between right and wrong.  He said that “thugs” became his mentors.  “He is here because he is accountable of the activities of the other two.”  Stegemeyer added that Mueller was present because he was forced under gunpoint by “the thugs” and that the crime was committed under the threat of death.  He added that if Mueller had to run from the scene there would have been two deaths.  

Mueller’s attorney said that all of the local police departments believe that threats were involved in the crime in addition to threats to Mueller’s family if he would have gone to the cops.  He noted his client is now cooperating to bring the puzzle together.  “How and where were you at fifteen” asked Stegmeyer.  “Our minds could not have conceived what had occurred,” He finished by saying that the events were a tragedy for both Sidnee Stephens and Robbie Mueller.  

Defendant Robbie Mueller then spoke to the courtroom for the first time.  He began with apologizing  for what had happened.  He said that he was threatened with death if he said anything about the murder.  When Mueller was picked up by Glazier and Dane the night of Sidnee’s murder they told him they were going to Chad Bennett’s house.  HE said that he did not have a gun or any weapon and didn’t take part in planning the event.  He also said that he considered Sidnee a friend as they had spent time together that summer.  He said the reason he had a glove on at the bridge was because of handling gas earlier that day.  “If I could have done something, I would have.  It all happened so fast.”  He then turned to Sidnee’s mother Tracy and said, “I’m very sorry.”  

Judge Aguirre noted that tragedy was in the ages of everyone involved in the situation.  He also said that coercion and duress are no excuses for murder in Illinois, as Mueller’s defense was he was threatened to act in the murder and not to speak of it.  “This is not a twenty year murder, this is a horrible, horrible act...  Its stealth in the middle of the night.”  

Nearly two hours into the hearing Mueller was sentenced to thirty-seven years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, with a three year supervision period upon release.  “You did not show mercy, therefore the court was to show no mercy.  Mueller can appeal the sentence.  

Dane who was eighteen at the time of the murder, pled guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to sixty years last year.  However, he was found hanged in the Perry County Jail on the same morning that he was to be transferred to Menard Correctional Center.  Glazier, 19 was found guilty of first degree murder and was sentenced to sixty years in prison.  Glazier’s attorney alluded to his desire to appeal.  Dakota Wall, 20, was arrested two years ago, but last year after plea bargaining was charged with obstructing a peace officer and was let off with a fine and time served.  Wall was arrested again last month on six new charges and is currently being held in the Perry County Jail.  She is on the January Docket.  Chad Bennett, 22, was arrested last month at the same time as Wall.  He faces seven charges, Bennett bonded out of jail last Thursday and faces his Preliminary hearing November 8.