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Suspect’s cousin testifies in ’04 case: Auroran admitted shooting

CevStanford 31 charged murder James McClose 2004.

Cevin Stanford, 31, charged in the murder of James McClose in 2004.

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Updated: January 13, 2013 6:15AM

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP — Michael Smith said he was playing video games with his friends on the night of May 20, 2004, when his cousin Cevin Stanford left the apartment twice.

The first time, Stanford came back with some guns. The second time, according to Smith, Stanford was running from the police.

Smith testified in Kane County court Tuesday against his cousin, who is accused of shooting 22-year-old James McClose Jr. in the back multiple times while McClose slept in a first-floor apartment in the 1300 block of Monomoy Street in Aurora. The shooting may have been sparked by a gang dispute, according to a search warrant filed in the case. McClose was an inactive gang member, authorities said.

On Tuesday, Smith testified that no one was very surprised when Stanford and a friend returned to the apartment with two handguns and put them on a table. Stanford and the other man left a little while later. When Stanford returned the second time, he was breathing hard, Smith testified.

“He said turn off the lights. He said the police were coming,” Smith said. “Police knocked on the door a few minutes after he got home.”

On the stand Tuesday, Smith said that the next morning Stanford admitted he had crawled in the window and “opened up” on McClose.

Defense attorney Ron Dolak argued that Smith kept this information secret from the police until it benefited him the most.

Smith and Stanford were both charged in a July 4, 2006, shooting that injured three teens. Stanford is serving a 96-year prison sentence on that charge. Dolak pointed out that Smith could have faced more than eight years in prison if convicted of attempted murder. Instead, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and will likely serve about six years.

Also on Tuesday, several Aurora police officers testified about how, shortly after the shooting, they followed a red Ford to a cemetery, where two men fled, dropping clothes and guns as they ran. They escaped, but Stanford was charged four years later.

McClose was a former West Aurora High School student and father of one girl.

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