Crime & Courts

Man found in criminal contempt after refusing to testify at double homicide hearing

A Sleepy Hollow man serving prison time for a 2017 home invasion could have another year added to his sentence after he refused to testify at a hearing for another man's double homicide case.

McHenry County Judge Michael Coppedge found Louis Hernandez in direct criminal contempt Wednesday. The decision was rooted in the 52-year-old's refusal to answer questions regarding an audio-recorded jailhouse phone call between Hernandez and a family member.

During the call, Hernandez described a conversation with a fellow detainee whom prosecutors believe to be 34-year-old Ryan Yarber. That detainee admitted to Hernandez that he shot his wife and then killed his teenage sister-in-law to eliminate her as a "witness," according to the recording.

Yarber's attorneys had previously asked to bar Hernandez's testimony at trial, claiming he would be an unreliable witness. Wednesday's hearing was intended to sort the matter but was cut short when Hernandez declined to answer prosecutors' questions. Asked whether he recognized the voices on the tape, which was played in court, Hernandez responded "no."

Coppedge ordered Hernandez to answer the question, but the man again declined, even after prosecutors granted him immunity. The judge ultimately found Hernandez in direct criminal contempt and threatened to add a year to his prison sentence.

Hernandez is serving 13 years at Shawnee Correctional Center for a 2017 home invasion during which he beat and choked two women for hours. His hands and feet remained shackled as two officers stood to his side during Wednesday's hearing.

McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Randi Freese asked that she be allowed to continue questioning Hernandez with the understanding that a year would be added to his sentence each time he ignored the judge's order to answer a question.

Unsure whether he had that authority, Coppedge set a Nov. 9 court date for Hernandez's sentencing on the single contempt finding. It was unclear whether prosecutors could continue questioning Hernandez at that time.

For the duration of Wednesday's hearing, Yarber remained silent from the far corner of the courtroom as prosecutors questioned Hernandez.

Yarber has pleaded not guilty in the 2017 shooting death of his wife, 31-year-old Allania Yarber, and her 15-year-old sister, Anniyah Reynolds. The man's attorneys have claimed Yarber was a battered husband and was acting in self-defense at the time of the shootings.

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