Trial underway for 2010 Rockford murder behind Altamore's - – Rockford’s News Leader

Trial underway for 2010 Rockford murder behind Altamore's

Jeremy Hassenfelt walks into courtroom. Jeremy Hassenfelt walks into courtroom.
Picture of James Wyatt Picture of James Wyatt
2010 murder scene. 2010 murder scene.
Sherry Yoak Sherry Yoak
Winnebago County Courthouse. Winnebago County Courthouse.

The trial starts for a man accused of gunning down another man behind a popular Rockford restaurant. Prosecutors call the murder of James Wyatt an execution.

Jeremy Hassenfelt faces first degree murder charges. Police say he killed James Wyatt two years ago in the street behind Altamore Ristorante near Auburn and North Main.

"This defendant that walked right up to the truck, raised his arm and fired the shot and executed James Wyatt that night," says Kate Kurtz, Winnebago County Assistant State's Attorney.

On February 21, 2010, the prosecution says Wyatt, 33, was killed after driving his girlfriend to a drug deal. They say Hassenfelt walked up to Wyatt's truck and shot him once in the chest. But the defense says it was not Hassenfelt who pulled the trigger that night.

"The pieces won't fit. The details won't match. You are not going to hear DNA evidence or finger print evidence. You are going to hear from three people who were involved in a drug transaction," says Alicia Leonard, Hassenfelt's attorney.

One of those witnesses was Sherry Yoak. She admitted her boyfriend Wyatt drove her to the parking lot behind Altamore's to sell drugs to some people. In court she pointed out Hassenfelt as the man she saw shoot and kill her boyfriend.

"I heard the shot. I ran to the truck. Well, I was on the ground, and I got up and ran to the truck. James said 'Babe, I've been shot, I've been shot.' I told him get out of the seat let me drive you to the hospital. And he said 'No, I got it.' He put the truck in drive, put it back in park, put his hands over his face fell in my arms and died," says Yoak.

Hassenfelt has pleaded not guilty to the murder. In February 2010, Hassenfelt disappeared after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was found a couple months later in Missouri.

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