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Downstate traffic stop leads to arrest of three murder suspects

Sun-Times file photo

Three men suspected of murder and found to be in possession of drugs and weapons were arrested last month during a traffic stop on a highway in downstate Danville, authorities said.

Shortly before 5 a.m. Aug. 27, an Illinois State Police trooper observed a Jeep Wrangler and a white Mercedes car driving erratically eastbound during a road rage incident on I-74 near milepost 200 in Danville, according to a statement from Illinois State Police. Danville is about 140 miles south of Chicago.

The trooper requested additional units and Vermilion County police officers assisted in the traffic stop of the two vehicles. The trooper suspected criminal activity and received consent to search the Jeep, which was a rental from Canada, and subsequently found a rifle, police said.

A K-9 smelled cocaine from the Mercedes and officers then found 112.1 grams of cocaine and two handguns in the vehicle, according to police.

The vehicles’ occupants, Michael Gresham, Joshua Baker and Lawrence Greggs Jr., all 20 years old and from Cincinnati, Ohio, were all arrested for weapon and drug offenses and brought to the Vermilion County Jail, police said.

ISP agents then contacted Colorado authorities regarding the Mercedes because the registered owner was not present. Agents learned the registered owner, 21-year-old Devon D. Smeltz, was reported missing by his mother on Aug. 26.

Smeltz was found dead by Colorado authorities on Saturday. Gresham, Baker and Lawrence are all suspected of being involved in Smeltz’s disappearance, police said.

They will be held in the Vermillion County jail until they are extradited to Colorado, police said.

“This is a perfect example of how a simple traffic stop can lead to the discovery of more serious crimes.” said ISP Colonel Tad Williams. “Their teamwork with outside agencies and across state lines led to the seizure of illegal drugs, guns and ultimately resulted in the arrest of three dangerous criminals.”

The case remains an ongoing investigation by the Fort Collins, Colorado Police Department in cooperation with the Illinois State Police.