Judge denies killer’s bid to withdraw guilty plea

By Kevin Beese Staff Writer

Timothy Banowetz

A Madison County judge has dismissed a convicted killer’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

Circuit Court Judge Kyle Napp on Wednesday, Nov. 8 approved State Attorney Tom Haine’s requests to dismiss Timothy Banowetz’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea for the murder of attorney Randy Gori.

“We hope this ruling brings an end to this convicted murderer’s absurd legal gamesmanship,” Haine said. “We are going to continue making every possible effort to ensure this brutal individual serves every day of his 70-year sentence, so fully deserved, so that the family and loved ones of Randy Gori can continue to heal with a sense of closure.”

In 2021, after pleading guilty to first-degree murder and armed robbery, Banowetz was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

The circuit clerk received Banowetz’s motion in December 2022 — nearly 11 months beyond the 30-day window allowed for withdrawing a guilty plea — but the defendant claimed his mail was held up in prison.

At a hearing Wednesday, First Assistant State’s Attorney Chad Loughrey and Assistant State’s Attorney Lauren Maricle presented evidence and testimony showing Banowetz could not have mailed the motion from prison in December 2021 as he had claimed.

Autumn Parker said she notarized Banowetz’s bid to withdraw his guilty plea on Jan. 4, 2022, nearly two weeks after Banowetz claimed he mailed the form.

Illinois Department of Corrections officials said they have no record of Banowetz mailing any legal documents while at Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro. Banowetz is now in the Pontiac Correctional Center.

“There is no practical explanation how the defendant’s pleading could have been mailed on Dec. 20, 2021, yet not be received by the clerk of the court until Dec. 5, 2022,” Loughrey said in a court filing. “There is no evidence that the defendant made any inquiry or attempt to determine the status of his pleading at any time after the date he purported to deposit said pleading in the U.S. mail.”

Randy Gori was fatally stabbed at his rural Edwardsville home in January 2020. A Madison County Sheriff’s Office investigation resulted in the arrest of Banowetz, who was located near the scene wearing a bloody shirt. Banowetz, now 32, was homeless at the time.

The investigation revealed that Gori’s murder was part of a scheme to rob him.

When police found Banowetz, a note fell from his pocket. The note mentioned restraining the family with cable ties and duct tape, having them withdraw $4 million to $6 million from a bank, killing them and burning the home.