The Illinois 2nd District Appellate Court filed the 14-page order Monday, finding that McHenry County prosecutors didn’t have sufficient evidence to tie 55-year-old Renee Hermes to the cocaine and cash police seized from her husband’s lock box in 2014.
McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt sentenced Hermes to 2½ years of probation and jail time for cocaine possession after a bench trial in 2017. Appellate Justice Kathryn Zenoff called the state’s case “speculative,” noting prosecutors didn’t prove Hermes had access the cocaine.
Hermes was charged in April 2014 after she called 911 to report possible carbon monoxide poisoning. She later admitted to being high at the time of the call, prosecutors said.
Authorities saw cocaine on a table when they arrived at the home and later found more cocaine in a safe in the basement, police said at the time. Offices reported finding a total of 14.7 ounces of cocaine.
Hermes was taken to the hospital for symptoms of an overdose at the time and remained there for about five days. At trial, she said she had been on a four-day binge.
After spotting the suspected cocaine at Hermes’ home, police used a search warrant to uncover a 6-foot-tall safe in a large walk-in closet in the basement.
The safe contained a small lock box, mail and a printout of an internet discussion “on how to purify ... cocaine,” the order stated. Inside the lock box, police found $11,910 in cash and several bags containing suspected heroin, along with credit cards in the Hermes’ names and two LG flip phones, the order stated.
The credit cards proved to be the state’s strongest evidence, although prosecutors didn’t show that accounts tied to any of the cards had been activated, Zenoff wrote.
While making a determination, Wilbrandt relied on the state’s theory that Hermes must have been high on the cocaine from her husband’s lock box when she called police in 2014, although no evidence proved that “circular” logic, Zenoff wrote.
William Hermes, her husband, is serving a nine-year prison sentence for possession of cocaine in relation to the same incident.
Reached by phone Wednesday, McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney and Chief of the Criminal Division John Gibbons said he was uncertain whether his office would appeal the decision.
Hermes’ trial attorney, Philip Prossnitz, could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.