Prosecutors focus on murder case against Love

Robert Connelly, GateHouse Media Illinois

As expected, Knox County prosecutors are moving forward on the first-degree murder case in the shooting death of Xavier Hartman.

Knox County Assistant State's Attorneys Brian Kerr and Andrew Stuckart dismissed the first case filed against James E. Love, 59, Knox Road 2000E in Galva, during a final pretrial hearing Wednesday afternoon.

That case, in which a Knox County grand jury returned an indictment for felony involuntary manslaughter rather than first-degree murder, is dismissed in order for prosecutors to proceed on with the first-degree murder case they filed in mid-July.

The second case made it out of its preliminary hearing last week and is set for the pretrial calendar Sept. 4. Love is charged with first-degree murder with a firearm along with two shooting counts related to his June 19 shooting death of Hartman, 19, near his rural Galva home. Hartman was struck by two rounds fired from Love's handgun during a confrontation after Hartman crashed his vehicle about 300 yards from Love's home.

Hartman was unarmed, but is believed to have struck Love in the face at least once.

Defense Attorney Todd Ringel has said that he will be arguing Love acted in self-defense while prosecutors pursue a charge of first-degree murder in the case. If Love is convicted, the sentence would be 45 years to natural life in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Kerr has previously said it will be up to lab and forensic work being returned on whether or not the case could realistically go to jury trial next month.

Meanwhile, Ringel has made a motion to substitute Circuit Judge Paul Mangieri off of the case. That was granted and it is still being decided who will preside over the matter. Whether or not that affects Love's next hearing, a pretrial conference set for Sept. 4, is yet to be determined.

Circuit Judge Scott Shipplett, presiding over Wednesday afternoon's dismissal in the first case, transferred the $30,000 bond Love had posted in the first case to the second case.

Robert Connelly: (309) 343-7181, ext. 266;; @RConnelly_