WONDER LAKE – Jeremy Lechner was killed trying to defend someone else, family members say.
Lechner, 34, died Monday night after being transported to Centegra Hospital - McHenry. An autopsy revealed a single stab wound to the chest that hit the heart, Deputy Coroner Kim Bostic said.
Richard G. Nielsen, 53, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and aggravated battery. He remains in custody at the McHenry County Jail and must post 10 percent of his $75,000 bond to be released.
At 9:50 p.m. Monday, members of the McHenry County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to assist Wonder Lake Police with a stabbing at 7607 Orchard Road, Undersheriff Andrew Zinke said. Wonder Lake Police were not experienced in investigating this type of crime, he said.
Lechner's stepfather, Bob Fritch, said that Lechner had been staying at the Orchard Road home on occasion with a woman he had been dating, Becky Meyers.
Meyers, her brother, and Lechner confronted Nielsen about missing medication, Fritch said.
"The four of them got into a discussion about all this stuff missing and that they wanted him to leave," Fritch said.
Nielsen was drunk and an argument ensued, Fritch said.
"I'm not sure the sequence and I'm not sure it's even clear for anybody who was there, but it sounds like this guy was going after Becky and Jeremy stepped in the middle of it to defend her," Fritch said.
Fritch acknowledged that his stepson had a criminal record, but said that Lechner, who has a 4-year-old son, was turning his life around.
"He's been like an angel for the last year and a half," Fritch said. "He stopped drinking. He hasn't done any drugs, no nothing."
Fritch said police came to his door around 2:30 or 3:30 in the morning.
"They said the worst thing that anybody could ever hear," Fritch said. "It's a parent's nightmare."
On Tuesday, the Fritch house was full of friends, aunts, cousins, brothers, and other family members.
They remembered Lechner as a great artist and drummer who was always trying to help others.
Lechner's aunt and godmother, Donna Murray, said she was there when he was born. He was like one of her own children, she said.
"When he walked into a room, the room lit up," she said. "And he loved everybody. He didn't go into a room without hugging everyone and he didn't leave the room without hugging everyone."
His grandmother passed away and they were like two peas in a pod but are together again now.
"That's what's holding us together," Murray said.