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Three guards at Mt. Sterling prison sentenced in beating death

Western Illinois Correctional Center
Western Illinois Correctional Center

All three correctional officers involved in the brutal beating death of an inmate at the Western Illinois Correctional Center have now been sentenced.

Senior U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough issued the following sentences:

  • Todd Sheffler: 20 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release
  • Alex Banta: 20 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release
  • Willi Hedden: six years in federal prison

Sheffler, 54, was a lieutenant at the prison in Mount Sterling, while Banta, 31, was an officer. Both were convicted of five charges, including conspiracy to deprive civil rights.
Hedden, 43, who was a sergeant, pleaded guilty to three charges, including conspiracy to deprive civil rights. He provided testimony against the others, including that it was part of the culture at the prison to abuse inmates and lie to cover it up.

Sheffler, Banta, and Hedden were sentenced in the death of Larry Earvin, a 65-year old inmate at the prison.

Prosecutors said the guards forced Earvin from his cell in May of 2018. Earvin was restrained and handcuffed and posed no threat when the guards assaulted him.

Banta was accused of striking the most serious blows to Earvin, including jumping in the air and landing on him with both knees.

Earvin suffered multiple broken ribs and severe internal injuries.

He died in June of 2018.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story. 

Rich is the News Director at Tri States Public Radio. Rich grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago but now calls Macomb home. Rich has a B.A in Communication Studies with an Emphasis on Radio, TV, and Film from Northern Illinois University. Rich came to love radio in high school where he developed his “news nerdiness” as he calls it. Rich’s high school had a radio station called WFVH, which he worked at for a couple years. In college, Rich worked at campus station WKDI for three years, spinning tunes and serving at various times as General Manager, Music Director and Operations Manager. Before being hired as Tri States Public Radio’s news director in 1998, Rich worked professionally in news at WRMN-AM/WJKL-FM in Elgin and WJBC-AM in Bloomington. In Rich’s leisure time he loves music, books, cross-country skiing, rooting for the Cubs and Blackhawks, and baking sugar frosted chocolate bombs. His future plans include “getting some tacos.”