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Dollar store murder conviction affirmed

Published: Friday, June 21, 2013 5:24 p.m. CDT

HANOVER PARK – The conviction of Jerry Lockhart, who was previously found guilty of stabbing an employee at a Hanover Park dollar store in 2008, was recently affirmed by the Second District Appelllate Court of Illinois, according to a news release from DuPage County State's Attorney Robert B. Berlin.

Lockhart was found guilty of armed robbery and first degree murder by a jury in March of 2011. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison by Judge John Kinsella.

Police found Dollar + Store employee Vatsala Thakkar, of Hanover Park, severely injured at her place of work after responding to a 911 call on Nov. 20, 2008. She had been stabbed in the back multiple times and was pronounced dead at an area hospital.

An investigation led police to Lockhart and two other men: Seneca Berry and Dewaun Tate. The three men were charged wth murder Nov. 24, 2008.

Berry pled guilty to one count of armed robbery and was sentended to 17 years in the Illinois correctional system in July 2009. Tate pled guilty to one count of first degree murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison in June 2011.

Lockhart, however, appealed the charges, arguing that a knife admitted as evidence was not the murder weapon, despite its being found in his pocket. He also refuted the admission of a secretly-obtained audio recording of a conversation between himself and Tate.

Additionally, he argued that the armed robbery conviction should be vacated and merged with the murder conviction.

The appellate court found that even if the knife was not the murder weapon, there was still enough evidence to prove his guilt. The court also deemed the recording to be acceptable evidence because both men knew they were being monitored.

Lockhart's armed robbery conviction was vacated, but this did not affect his 30-year sentence.

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