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Man, 20, used ‘samurai knife’ to kill elderly family member found dead at Bellwood home with 35 stab wounds, prosecutors say

During Isaiah Jones’ initial court hearing Sunday, prosecutors described the 76-year-old victim as his “step-great-grandmother” and said he spent much of his life living with her.

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Bail was denied Sunday for a 20-year-old man who’s accused of stabbing an elderly family member dozens of times using a “samurai knife,” leaving her dead inside her Bellwood home before making off with a phone and envelopes of cash.

Isaiah Jones is charged with first-degree murder in Thursday’s killing of 76-year-old Jearlean Willingham.

At a court hearing Sunday, Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Christina Darcopoulos described Willingham as his “step-great-grandmother” and said he spent much of his life with her.

Isaiah Jones
Cook County sheriff’s office

After attending Bible study on Wednesday, Willingham returned to her home in the 3800 block of West Van Buren Street, where Jones was staying, according to Darcopoulos and the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Early Thursday, Darcopoulos said, Jones took what he described as a “samurai knife” and repeatedly stabbed Willingham. She suffered at least 35 stab wounds, some that pierced her heart and lungs and another that appeared to cut through her body.

Jones ran after grabbing Willingham’s phone and bank envelopes filled with cash, Darcopoulos said. He said Jones was caught on a home security camera wearing distinctive red shoes and a red bag, though his face wasn’t visible.

Willingham’s daughter found her covered in blood on a bedroom floor, Darcopoulos said.

Jones was wearing the same clothing when he was found nearby about five hours later. During a brief pursuit, Darcopoulos said he appeared to be reaching for a gun.

Authorities said Jones was found with disassembled pieces of a handgun and a knife, loose currency and bank envelopes containing $525.

Jones admitted killing Willingham and acknowledged that blood covering his body was hers, Darcopoulos said, and told investigators he got rid of the knife, which hasn’t been found.

In addition to the murder charge, Darcopoulos said Jones has a pending case in DuPage County for unlawful use of a weapon. She asked the judge to deny Jones bail in the new case.

Greg LaPapa, Jones’ attorney, said his client works at a Ross clothing store and is trying to get his GED. LaPapa noted that his client’s face wasn’t seen in the surveillance video and that he wasn’t apprehended until five hours after the killing.

Cook County Judge Susana Ortiz denied bail, citing the evidence and“viciousness” of the crime.

Editor’s note: The story has been changed to show the accurate mugshot of Isaiah Jones.