Springfield Woman with Pending Murder Charge Freed from the Sangamon County Jail After Being Granted Pre-Trial Release

Katherine E. Smith

Springfield, IL – A Springfield woman has been released from the Sangamon County Jail after the Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court ruled that the Sangamon County Trial Court “erred in finding that the defendant posed a threat to the safety of the community and that no conditions of release could mitigate the threat.”

Katherine E. Smith is charged with murder, armed robbery, and home invasion in connection with the fatal stabbing of 19-year-old Dohndre Hughes in February 2018. Smith, who was 18 at the time of her arrest, was charged alongside Dayne A. Woods and Mark D. Meszaros. According to Sangamon County prosecutors, Smith instructed Woods and Meszaros to set up a robbery and provided them with directions on how to enter Hughes’ home. Woods and Meszaros entered the home without Smith, using pepper spray to subdue the occupants. However, Hughes struggled with Woods, who then stabbed him in the chest, ultimately causing his death. Woods and Meszaros left Hughes’ residence with money, which they shared with Smith.

On February 8, 2024, Smith’s attorney, Mark Wykoff, asked the court to release her on pre-trial release while her case is pending. Wykoff argued that Smith, who did not have any previous criminal history, lived with her mother, worked as a sales associate, and was attending classes at a community college, was not alleged to have personally performed any act of violence but rather had been charged on an accountability theory. He also explained that Smith “got hooked up” with Woods because they both liked to smoke marijuana. Wykoff further stated that Woods “liked to dress up like a cop with all his gear and go in and rip off dope dealers,” and that although there was evidence that Smith and Woods planned to “rip off” the victim, who was a marijuana dealer, there was no evidence showing she contemplated Woods would physically harm the victim. However, the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s Office asked the judge to deny that request and to have her remain in custody until the conclusion of her case due to the nature of the charges. A Sangamon County Judge agreed with the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s Office, denied her pre-trial release, and ordered her to remain in custody. Attorney Wykoff then appealed that decision.

On May 2, 2024, the Appellate Court reversed that decision and stated in their order, “We agree and find the trial court abused its discretion by determining, based solely on the nature and circumstances of the charged offenses, that defendant ‘poses a danger to the community’ and that no condition or combination of conditions of pretrial release could mitigate such threat.” According to the Appellate Court, “While the State’s proffer tended to show defendant was legally accountable for the charged offenses, it was not sufficient, on its own, to show that defendant posed a real and present threat to the safety of the community. The State’s proffer did not indicate that defendant masterminded the robbery, was aware that Woods would be armed with a knife during the incident, was aware violence would be used against the victim, or personally performed or witnessed any act of violence. The State pointed to no other factor indicating that defendant posed a threat to the safety of the community. Significantly, the pretrial services report indicated that defendant (Smith) had no prior criminal history, and the State presented no evidence she had a history of violence.” They additionally stated, “The fact that a person is charged with a detainable offense is not enough to order detention, nor is it enough that the defendant poses a threat to public safety.”

On May 14, 2024, Smith was granted pre-trial release and released from the Sangamon County Jail with conditions that she is not to leave the State of Illinois, refrain from the possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapons, have no contact directly or indirectly with her co-defendants or the family of the victim, Dohndre Hughes, be placed on home confinement with electronic monitoring, not consume alcohol, cannabis, and illegal prescription drugs without a valid prescription, and undergo a drug/alcohol evaluation.

According to records, Katherine Smith is the third individual charged with murder to be granted pre-trial release. Notably, Peggy Finley, represented by both Attorneys Scott Hankin and Mark Wykoff, is Wykoff’s first client and the first individual in Sangamon County to be granted pre-trial release while facing pending murder charges. Finley, accompanied by former EMT worker Peter Cadigan, who was also released pending pre-trial, is charged with the murder of Earl Moore Jr., who died after being strapped face down and slammed onto a gurney while experiencing medical distress from alcohol withdrawal.

At this time, Smith’s next court date is June 10, 2024. Her co-defendants, Woods and Meszaros, are still awaiting trial in the Sangamon County Jail.

To read the Forth District Appellate Court’s ruling – CLICK HERE.

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