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Alton man charged in the death of retired school janitor

ALTON, IL – 27-year-old Eugene Johnson is now charged with first-degree murder in the death of 79-year-old Bobby Depper.  Alton Police responded to a home on the 1100 hundred block of Vernie Avenue on August 3rd.  Depper had severe injuries and was rushed to a hospital.  He was pronounced dead on August 11th.  Johnson was charged with murder on Wednesday after an autopsy was completed.

The charging document alleges Johnson, “…struck Bobby L. Depper several times about his face and body with his fists, knowing such act created a strong possibility of death…”

“I’m so sorry that it happened,” said Helen Steele.  She was a longtime friend of Depper.  The two lived together.  Steele told Fox 2 she was asleep the night Depper was attacked and has no idea why anyone would want to harm him.  Steele said Johnson is her cousin.

“I think he should get the electric chair for what he did because he (Depper) was a 79-year-old man and he didn’t deserve it,” said Steele.

She said Depper was a retired custodian who worked for decades in the Alton School District.

“Everyone loved him,” said Steele.  “He’s going to be missed quite a bit.”

“For a young person to attack a senior citizen and someone so beloved in the community really kind of rocks a lot of people to the core,” said Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons.

He declined to comment on specifics of the case but said the investigation indicates Depper’s murder stemmed from a minor argument.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around this kind of stuff but something so minor, how it could escalate so quickly and turn into something violent enough to cause a person’s death,” said Gibbons.

Johnson is jailed on a $500,000 bond.  If convicted the maximum penalty for 1st-degree murder in Illinois is life in prison.

Gibbons said, “We are looking forward to bringing justice to the community for Bobby Depper, for his family and loved ones and seeing this case all the way through to conviction and a very serious sentence.”