By Clifford Ward
Special to the Tribune
4:40 PM CST, January 18, 2013
An Elgin woman pleaded guilty today to the murder of a man described as her friend, in a crime her attorney said ensued from a poor decision made under the influence of drugs.
Jessica S. Leach, 29, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her role in the death of James Granger, 61, of Elgin.
Granger’s body was found Dec. 17, 2011, in his fire-damaged Elgin apartment at 1 Times Square.
Kane County First Assistant State’s Attorney Jody Gleason said Leach and her boyfriend, Marvin G. Finklea, 27, plotted to steal money from Granger, and that Leach signaled Finklea to enter the apartment while she and Granger were engaged in sexual activity in his bedroom.
But Finklea stabbed Granger multiple times and then set the apartment on fire, Gleason said.
Leach was arrested hours later, and Finklea was badly injured that same day when he tried to carjack someone and was dragged by the vehicle. He died several days later in a hospital.
Leach attorney D.J. Tegeler said Leach never intended that harm come to Granger, who was her friend. She and Finklea had been using drugs and wanted money to buy more, he said.
But the law considered Leach legally responsible for Granger’s murder, and Tegeler said Leach accepted the plea deal because she wanted to spare Granger’s family the trauma of a trial.
“This is what happens when you make bad decisions while on drugs,” he said.
The 20-year sentence is the minimum term for first-degree murder. With credit for time served, Leach will be eligible for parole in about 19 years.
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