Crime & Courts

Defense attorney withdraws, delaying Crystal Lake man's murder trial

Judge ‘not happy’ about stall in double-homicide case previously expected to begin next month

Ryan C. Yarber, 32, of Crystal Lake
Ryan C. Yarber, 32, of Crystal Lake

The attorney for a Crystal Lake man accused of murdering his wife and teenage sister-in-law withdrew himself from the case Monday, less than a month before the matter was expected to go trial.

Attorneys were scheduled to argue several motions Monday afternoon regarding what evidence would have been allowed at Ryan C. Yarber’s Sept. 17 jury trial; however, Yarber’s attorney – Will County circuit judge candidate Vincent Cornelius – withdrew from the case.

Joliet law firm Chuck Bretz & Associates stepped in on the matter, asking to push Monday’s hearing back as far as November so their attorneys could familiarize themselves with the case.

Reached by phone Monday, Bretz said he “knows very little about the case” but expects his law firm will take it to trial. It’s too soon, however, to speculate when that trial might happen, he said.

Despite Assistant State’s Attorney John Gibbons’ claims that prosecutors were fully prepared to go to trial next month, Judge Sharon Prather set the case for a status hearing Oct. 19.

“The court is not happy with this kind of delay, either,” Prather said in court.

Yarber, 32, faces first-degree murder charges in connection with the Aug. 3, 2017, shooting deaths of his wife, 31-year-old Allania Yarber, and sister-in-law, 15-year-old Anniyah Reynolds. Yarber previously pleaded not guilty to the charges, which threaten a lifetime prison sentence.

Cornelius, who announced his candidacy for a Will County circuit judge seat in January, could not be reached for comment on why he stepped away from the case so close to its trial date.

In the months leading up to the previously set trial date, prosecutors filed several motions seeking to introduce specific evidence.

Included in that evidence are family members’ statements to investigators about a physical altercation between the couple July 22, 2017.

After the fight, which was reported to have occurred less than two weeks before the deaths – Ryan Yarber allegedly took a black gun clip with gold bullets out of his backpack and showed it to another woman at the home, according to prosecutors’ motion.

He told the same woman not to worry because he wasn’t “going to use it,” according to the motion.

According to Crystal Lake police search warrants, officers received a domestic disturbance report from a male caller at 8:02 p.m. Aug. 3, 2017. That caller, later learned to be Ryan Yarber, told dispatchers he was outside with an unloaded gun, and a woman with a knife was inside the home in the 1800 block of Marian Parkway, the warrant stated.

When police arrived, they found Ryan Yarber seated on the ground. He allegedly went on to tell police how he’d shot into the home to stop the woman with the knife, and that the woman might be dead, the warrant stated.

Investigators found Allania Yarber and Reynolds dying from apparent gunshot wounds near the house’s front door, according to the warrant.

Ryan Yarber told detectives that he shot at Reynolds multiple times in self-defense, claiming he “had to do it” because “she came at [him] with a knife,” and added he might have shot his wife, according to police records.

Ryan Yarber’s previous attorneys have said his statements to police should be barred from trial, claiming officers continued to question him after Ryan Yarber asked to speak with a lawyer.

The case will pick up Oct. 15 in McHenry County court. A new trial date has not yet been set.

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