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Western Illinois Prison Sergeant Pleads Guilty in Inmate Death

Mar 11, 2021

Federal prosecutors said a sergeant at the Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mt. Sterling pleaded guilty to his role in a fatal assault on an inmate.

Central District of Illinois Acting U.S. Attorney Douglas Quivey said Willie Hedden, 42, of Mt. Sterling entered his pleas via video conference. Sentencing is scheduled for July 21, 2021.

Quivey said Hedden pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deprive civil rights and deprivation of civil rights under color of law resulting in bodily injury and death. He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in misleading conduct for falsifying incident reports about the attack.

Hedden and two other prison employees are charged in the death of Larry Earvin, 65, of Chicago.

Prosecutors said Earvin was restrained and handcuffed behind his back at the time of the attack.  He suffered multiple broken ribs, a punctured colon, and other serious internal injuries. He died in June, 2018, a few months before he would have been eligible for parole.

Quivey said the assault occurred as Earvin was forcibly escorted from his residential unit at the prison to a separate, segregated housing unit.

The other two corrections officers accused in the case are Lieutenant Todd Sheffler, 52, of Mendon, and Alex Banta, 29, of Quincy. They are scheduled to stand trial in late June.

Sheffler and Banta are each charged with conspiracy to deprive civil rights and deprivation of civil rights under color of law resulting in bodily injury and death, conspiracy to engage in misleading conduct, and two counts of obstruction of justice.