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Woodstock man takes theft plea

WOODSTOCK – A third person has accepted a plea deal in the theft of about one-eighth an ounce of marijuana that was at the center of a Woodstock man’s death.

William B. Howell, 23, of Woodstock, pleaded guilty to theft under $500, a Class A misdemeanor, and was sentenced to one year of conditional discharge. The plea was accepted Wednesday by McHenry County Judge Gordon Graham.

Howell also was sentenced to 120 days in jail and given credit for 10 days served. The remainder of the jail time was stayed, meaning he will not have to serve it if he successfully completes the terms of his conditional discharge.

Those terms include breaking no laws, completing a drug abuse evaluation, following all recommendations and submitting to six random drug tests.

According to police, Howell was part of a group of people who went to the home of 26-year-old Joseph Woodell on Lawndale Avenue in Woodstock in May 2012.

John C. Kurchina, 23, arranged to buy drugs from Woodell, but left without paying for one-eighth an ounce of marijuana, police said.

Kurchina jumped into the passenger seat of a waiting car driven by Hanna M. Schacht, 22, with Howell also inside. Howell had provided the phone used to set up the drug deal.

Trying to stop the theft, Woodell jumped on the car and was thrown onto the street, hitting his head on the pavement. He died several days later.

Last month, both Schacht and Kurchina pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft, charges similar to Howell’s.

Howell also has a pending domestic battery case. His criminal record includes convictions for aggravated battery and possession of a stolen vehicle.

Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs, who is chief of the Criminal Division, said Howell was a participant in the plan to go to Woodell’s house.

“I thought, given that the offenders stole a Class A [misdemeanor] amount of marijuana, that it was not appropriate that they should be convicted felons,” Combs said.

Woodell’s fall to the pavement also was an accident and he contributed to his death by jumping on the car, Combs said.

Outside of court, Woodell’s family said they disagreed with him selling marijuana, but that he didn’t deserve to die because of it. They said they wanted harsher punishments for the people involved.

“I’m disappointed because they didn’t treat it like this person that I dearly loved had value,” said Woodell’s mother, Sarah Woodell. “It’s so, so wrong to be not held accountable.”

What Schacht, Kurchina and Howell did was wrong and cost her son his life, she said.

“It could have been anybody’s child, brother, sister that she left laying on the street, bleeding,” Woodell said of Schacht, who drove the get-away from which Woodell was thrown.

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