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Murder Charges In Mob Beating

A 16-year-old boy and six men ranging in age up to 47 were charged with first-degree murder on Saturday in the Chicago mob beating and slaying of two men whose rental van skidded out of control, injuring three women.

Authorities said they were considering seeking the death penalty against the seven, who were charged with two counts apiece of first-degree murder and several counts each of mob action.

Because of the brutality of the crime and multiple victims, "this could be a capital case," said Jerry Lawrence, a spokesman for the Cook County State Attorney's office. "They could get life (in prison) or the death penalty."

While Illinois Gov. George Ryan has declared a moratorium on executions in the state to allow for a review of the administration of the death penalty, state prosecutors still are able to seek the death sentence, Lawrence said.

Six of those charged were gang members, according to a Chicago police spokesman, Officer Thomas Doneg. And all had criminal pasts, said Lawrence.

Jack Moore, 62, and Anthony Stuckey, 49, were beaten to death after a van in which they were hauling furniture on Tuesday ran a stop sign, skidded over a curb and pinned three women to the front porch of a South Side building, police said.

As the injured lay on the ground, a mob pulled the men from the van and beat them with bricks, stones and their fists, police said. At least 100 people watched the beating, according to witness accounts.

Moore, who was driving the van, was legally drunk, but that had no bearing on the investigation, police said.

Moore and Stuckey lived in the neighborhood.

One of the three women, 26-year-old Shani Lawrence, remained hospitalized in critical condition on Saturday, while the other two have been released from the hospital.

Those charged included 16-year-old Antonio Fort, who was charged as an adult, police said. The others were: Lamont Mones, 20; Robert Tucker, 20; James Ousley, 28; Ricky Lawson, 43; Roosevelt Lawrence, 43 and Henry Lawrence, 47, authorities said.

Tucker and Fort were ordered held without bond on Saturday. The other suspects were set to have bond hearings on Sunday.

"They're out of our hands now and will have to go through the court system," Donegan said.

Police have called the people who killed Moore and Stuckey "cowardly thugs."

"I believe it was just a mob mentality that took over there and they just broke the windows of the car, dragged these two individuals out and beat them to death," Police Chief of Detectives Phil Cline said. "It's a double homicide is what it is. It's a crime."

Cline said several of the accused men made statements to police that put them at the scene of the killings, and all were identified by witnesses who came forward. Cline said the investigation was continuing.

Henry and Roosevelt Lawrence are uncles of one of the victims who was struck by the van. Cline said four of the men have extensive criminal records. Fingerprints from two of the men were found on the van, Cline said.

Police and relatives of the victims had pleaded for help from witnesses.

Community activists distributed fliers and knocked on doors in the neighborhood, asking anyone with information to come forward. They also held a prayer vigil at the accident scene, which drew about 50 people who held candles and prayed for justice.

"Numerous and courageous individuals from that neighborhood have shown they have the strength and character to do what's right," Police Superintendent Terry Hillard said Friday.

Police said the van would be examined. They didn't know what caused the vehicle to veer off the street, but called it an accident.

Autopsies revealed that Stuckey, an unemployed day laborer and factory worker, and Moore died from multiple injuries and blunt trauma, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office said.

Janet Jenkins, a second cousin to Moore, said the charges would give the family some satisfaction.

"It wouldn't bring Jack back but I feel justice would be done," she said.

Shani and Jenny Lawrence, who are cousins, filed suit Friday seeking damages from Moore's estate and the agency that rented him the van.

Those who live near the street corner where the incident occurred the area was the scene of frequent skirmishes.

"This corner was a powder keg," said the Rev. Bamani Obadele, who lives nearby. "Every night you can come out here and there's 20 to 30 young people sitting out here. Every other night people are fighting."