The Joliet teen charged with killing two men and wounding another in a cowardly ambush shooting claimed he doesn't even know why he's in jail.
"I was just picked up and put down here—I don't even know what I'm down here for," said Sjolante Crowder, who allegedly shot down three men Tuesday night, taking two of their lives.
Crowder appeared at his Thursday afternoon bond hearing through a closed-circuit television broadcast from the county jail.
"I just turned 18 and, can I speak now?" Crowder asked Judge Marzell Richardson at the start of the hearing.
The judge told him he'd be better off keeping quiet.
"You might think you're not saying anything implicating, but it could be used against you," Judge Richardson advised the young man.
But Crowder kept talking anyway.
"I don't really know what to say, your honor, because I didn't have anything to do—I wasn't even there," Crowder explained.
Richardson went ahead and appointed a public defender to represent Crowder, but the jailed man's sister spoke up and told the judge a private attorney will be hired for her brother.
The sister, China Hill, later said she knows her brother could not have been the triggerman responsible for the killings because she was talking to him on the telephone at the time of the gun attack. Hill conceded that said she did not actually know where her brother was or what he was doing while they were talking.
A large group of friends and family turned out to support Crowder at his first court appearance. One young woman was thrown out of the courthouse before the hearing started when she refused to give a bailiff her name.
The enraged woman hurled her cell phone against a courthouse wall, smashing it, and departed while a county deputy was threatening to arrest her.
Crowder allegedly killed Delasse Lanier, 18, and Adrian Knox, 17, both of Joliet, and wounded 19-year-old Jordan Caples on Second Avenue Tuesday night.
The three young men were standing in a crowd of two dozen or so when a black-clad Crowder slunk up behind them and opened fire at close range, police said.
Lanier and Knox were pronounced dead at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox soon after the shooting. Caples, who took a bullet to his upper back, drove himself to Provena St. Joseph Medical Center and survived.
Joliet Police Chief Mike Trafton said the gun attack stemmed from a fight between two young women earlier in the evening. Joliet police Cmdr. Brian Benton said the killings had "definite gang overtones."
Lanier and Knox were the second and third teens shot to death inside 24 hours from Monday night through Tuesday night.
The killings started when 18-year-old Tevin Bridges was gunned down in the Lois Place apartments. Darrel Perkins, a 53-year-old man who sells cigarettes, marijuana and food out of his home in the apartment complex, was charged with Bridges' murder.
Perkins is being held at the county jail on a $3 million bond. Crowder, who was caught the day after the killings while sitting with two other men on a Richards Street porch, has a $7 million bond.
After the bond hearing Tuesday, some of Crowder's friends and family complained that there was no evidence tying him to the crime other than the accounts of witnesses.
"He ain't guilty till God say he's guilty," said a woman identifying herself as Crowder's grandmother Regina Crowder. "Clean up your own God damn house."