Date with a cell

Martha Jean sat in the backseat of a squad car as the sun rose the morning of March 27, 2005.

A detective told the 15-year-old that all she had to do was recount the events of the night before. If she did, police would go easy with the charges and she’d be back on her way home.

She arrived at the police station and, without a lawyer or adult guardian by her side, began fielding questions from the detective, according to court documents.

Jean, who most knew as “Country,” and 18-year-old Tameka Newson had been hanging out with their boyfriends when they hatched a plan to get some cash. The girls decided that they would call up a chat line and lure over unsuspecting men. Their boyfriends–”Larry Johnson, 20, and Terrell Jones, 24–”would rob the victims. The plan was to split the cash four ways.

It was early evening when the teens met the first victim in an alley on the Far South Side. The women chatted with the man before Johnson and Jones arrived, robbing the man of $30, some DVDs and his clothes. Johnson and Jones split the cash and slipped into the man’s pants and gym shoes, according to witness testimony.

But the money was paltry. The crew decided to arrange another date that evening. This time the guys decided that they weren’t going to leave any witnesses. The boyfriends were going to kill the would-be suitors.

Two men arrived for the date at the Englewood apartment Jean shared with Jones. The men were ordered to strip. Their eyes and mouths were taped shut and their hands and legs bound with their own shoelaces, according to a witness confession. Jean held the gun as her boyfriend bound the victims.

Jones and Johnson hauled the victims outside around midnight. Despite being bound and blindfolded, one of the men, 22-year-old Darius Williams, tried to run. Johnson shot him dead. A Metra police officer heard the commotion and began exchanging gunfire with Johnson. An off-duty Chicago police officer stumbled upon the scene and fatally shot Johnson.

Jean never pulled the trigger. Nonetheless, on June 10, 2005, she was indicted on first-degree murder charges. The crime warranted an automatic transfer of her case to adult court.

It’s been five years since Jean has been locked up at Cook County’s juvenile detention center awaiting trial. There, she earned a reputation as a “mentor to other young residents” and was “highly revered by staff,” according to court records.

In May, Jean was transferred to the adult lock up. On Aug. 6, she pleaded guilty to armed robbery, Williams’ murder, as well as the attempted murder of the Metra police officer who intervened. It was a plea that carried a term of 43 years.

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