Marie's Pizza's owner testifies about life-and-death struggle - – Rockford’s News Leader

Marie's Pizza's owner testifies about life-and-death struggle during botched robbery

Lamar Coates enters courtroom for his trial. Lamar Coates enters courtroom for his trial.
Vincenco Tarara, Marie's PIzza owner/operator. Vincenco Tarara, Marie's PIzza owner/operator.

The first of what's suppose to be three murder trials gets underway for a man accused of a botched robbery at Marie's Pizza in Rockford.

Lamar Coates is accused of felony murder in the death of his half brother. Prosecutors say in Illinois if someone dies in the commission of a felony you can be held responsible just as if you killed the person yourself.

"What you are going to learn is that it was the defendant, Desmond Bellmon, remember the name, Brandon Sago and Michael Sago who set in motion a chain of events that resulted in all of them being shot and Michael Sago dying," says Marilyn Hite-Ross, Winnebago County Deputy State's Attorney

October 1, 2011, prosecutors say Coates along with his friend Desmond Bellmon, his cousin Brandon Sago and half-brother Michael Sago all went to rob Marie's Pizza. The owner/operator Vincenco Tarara say he's thoughts races as the defendant shoved a gun in his face.

"He's going to kill me, I've got a family at home," says Tarara.

Tarara says when he didn't get the suspect the money the defendant pointed the gun at his friend, off-duty Winnebago County Sheriff's Deputy Frank Pobjecky. And that's when he went for the gun.

"With my right hand I grabbed the barrel. And then with my left hand I put it, placed it behind the trigger," says Tarara.

"Why did you put your left hand behind the trigger?" ask Hite-Ross.

"Cause he was attempting to pull the trigger,"says Tarara.

As the defendant and another suspect allegedly wrestled with the gun inside the store, Tarara says Pobjecky grabbed another the gun Tarara keeps strapped to his hip while he works at Marie's. Pobjecky took that gun and shot Coates.

"As Mr. Coates lay on the floor of the business, immobilized and bleeding from his injuries, Mr. Pobjecky then turns his firearm on the other three individuals," says Bradford Morrison, defense attorney.

Defense attorney Morrison says that's why Coates cannot be held responsible for 16-year-old Michael Sago's murder. He blames Pobjecky because Sago was shot in the back while he says he was trying to leave.

"And he did die outside of that business. Not through any actions of Lamar Coates but through the actions of Frank Pobjecky," says Morrison.

"Frank Pobjecky is able to upholster Vince Tarara's gun, pulls it over and starts shooting to try to protect their lives. We ask that you return a verdict of guilty on all counts," says Hite-Ross.

The prosecution is still presenting it's side of the case. Coates has pleaded not guilty.

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