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McDonough County jail inmate ruled unfit to stand trial in murder of cellmate

Timothy Smith is accused of beating to death his cellmate at the McDonough County jail.
Rich Egger
Timothy Smith is accused of beating to death his cellmate at the McDonough County jail.

A fitness hearing for Timothy Smith, 40, of Macomb ended with Smith being found unfit to stand trial in the death of Darrell Hocker, 51, of Macomb.

The two men were cellmates in the McDonough County jail when Smith allegedly struck Hocker several times in the head, neck, and chest during the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 2023.

Hocker was taken to McDonough District Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Hocker was in jail on a pair of domestic battery charges. Smith was being held on domestic battery and aggravated battery charges.

Clinical psychologist Joel Eckert testified during Wednesday’s hearing at the McDonough County courthouse. Eckert has been in private practice since 1990 and estimated he’s done several hundred evaluations for court hearings.

Eckert said he twice tried to interview Smith, once on Oct. 26, 2023 and again on Jan. 15, 2024. Eckert found him uncooperative both times. He said Smith was bothered by unwanted and intrusive voices in his head.

Eckert believes Smith would be unable to assist his defense attorney, James Hoyle, and would not be able to control his behavior in a courtroom.

Eckert also believes Smith might be able to improve with treatment.

Judge Nigel Graham found Smith unfit to stand trial and placed him with the Department of Human Services for treatment. The court will check on his status in 90 days to determine whether he’s improving.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.