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Appellate court hears arguments at ISU in gun case involving father

Four wooden crosses stand as a memorial for the four shooting fatalities outside a Waffle House restaurant Wednesday, April 25, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn.
Mark Humphrey
AP file
Four wooden crosses stand as a memorial for the four shooting fatalities outside a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville, Tenn.

Questions on whether a father knew his son had received mental health treatment before the son killed four people was one of the issues raised Wednesday in arguments before the Fourth District Appellate Court.

The court heard arguments during a visit to Illinois State University in Normal, where local lawyers and a large contingent of university students were in attendance.

The three-member panel of James Knecht, Eugene Doherty and Amy Lannerd heard arguments in the conviction of Jeffrey Reinking, of Morton.

Jeffrey Reinking was convicted in 2022 of illegally giving his son Travis Reinking an assault-style weapon he used in a 2018 shooting that left four dead at a Waffle House in Tennessee. A Tazewell County judge sentenced Reinking to 18 months in prison for delivery of a firearm to a person who had been treated for mental illness within five years.

Appellate prosecutor Matthew Goldman argued that Reinking was aware his son had received mental health treatment in 2016. Evidence at the father’s bench trial indicated that Travis Reinking, now 35, was evaluated at a Peoria hospital in 2016 after he told authorities responding to an incident at a pharmacy that he believed Taylor Swift was stalking him.

Travis Reinking is serving a life sentence for the murders of four victims, all in their 20s, at the restaurant in Nashville, Tenn.

Speaking on behalf of Reinking on the issue of mental health treatment, defense lawyer Michael Doubet said, “There is no record of treatment at UnityPoint. He was there but there is no record of treatment.”

The defense lawyer said the son may have refused treatment.

Justice Doherty pointed out that state statute does not require that a patient actually received treatment but that they were admitted to a mental health facility.

The panel also heard arguments about the fact the Illinois State Police was not notified of the hospital admittance.

“An investigation should have been done” into the reporting to state police, said Doubet. “That’s where the system failed.”

Goldman argued that Reinking knew his son was taken to a mental health facility and later visited him in a locked ward. The prosecutor acknowledged that Reinking admits to having called for emergency services for his son.

Reinking was charged with providing an AR-15 assault-style rifle to his son, one of several weapons he returned to him after they were taken from him because his firearm owner’s identification card had been revoked by the Illinois State Police over a residency issue.

A second prong of the defense argument was the use of several stipulations at Reinking’s bench trial. Doubet maintains his client did not agree with most of the stipulations. In one instance, Reinking agreed that he returned the weapons but would not concede that the firearms were “given” to his son. According to Doubet, Reinking did not think he had a choice as to whether he could keep the weapons after the residency issue was resolved.

The father’s decision to take the guns “has the air of no good deed goes unpunished,” Knecht told Doubet.

Doubet argued that Reinking’s hearing difficulties may have played a part in his being unaware of the content of the stipulations in court.

The complex legal issues related to the gun case surfaced in a question from Knecht to Goldman:

“Had this tragedy never occurred would this case have been brought before us?"

Goldman said there’s no way to know if a case would have been filed, absent the tragedy, but it is possible.

Reinking was allowed to be free on bail pending a decision on his appeal.

Edith Brady-Lunny was a correspondent at WGLT, joining the station in 2019. She left the station in 2024.
Adeline Schultz is a correspondent at WGLT. She joined the station in 2024.