Ronald Porter pleaded guilty to first degree murder on Wednesday
In a dramatic turn of events at the Sangamon County Courthouse on Wednesday, Springfield’s Ronald D. Porter pleaded guilty to a range of charges, including the first degree murder of Abby Neisler of South Block 700 State Street.
Porter admitted to stabbing Neisler, 24, and setting his residence on fire on January 11, 2020.
Porter pleaded guilty to 13 counts in all, including three counts of first degree murder and other counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal harassment, home invasion, armed robbery, d arson in a home, concealing a homicidal death, obstructing justice, aggravated animal cruelty, illegal use of a credit card and stalking a minor.
Porter’s plea was an open, non-negotiated plea, Sangamon County State Attorney Dan Wright said.
Before murder charges were filed, Porter was arrested by Springfield Police on February 4, 2020, following formal charges by the state prosecutor for a series of aggravated thefts in January and February.
Porter and his wife, Whitney Porter, were charged with residential arson, arson, insurance fraud and obstruction of justice in connection with a deliberate fire started in their apartment in October 2019 to obtain money from a fraudulent insurance claim.
Ronald Porter has been charged with aggravated theft and theft from a financial institution following an August 2019 theft from the United Community Bank branch on Peoria Road.
None of those charges were part of Porter’s plea on Wednesday.
Porter, 33, had indicated at his previous hearing on June 11 that he was prepared to plead guilty, but addressing court on Wednesday Porter said he was frustrated that he had not been discovered in his case and with his defense attorney, Michael Harmon.
See also: Springfield man charged with murder of town woman
Chief Justice John Madonia reminded Porter that he initiated the plea, but warned him not to rush into anything.
“If there’s more you want to do (in your case), now is the time to adjourn,” Madonia told Porter. “Better now than later. It’s not uncommon later for people in your position to try to come back and try to undo that because of buyer’s remorse.
“I’m trying to put that aside. Either you are ready to accept responsibility for this as you indicated before, or you are not ready yet.
After a conference with Harmon and Wright, Madonia explained that if Porter doesn’t plead, he could have a bench or jury trial.
Porter replied “guilty” to the 13 charges Madonia read. Porter kept his head down to answer questions.
Neisler’s parents, Jerry and Dayna Neisler, Pawnee and other family and friends were in the courtroom.
Neisler was a graduate of Pawnee High School and a sales associate at Aldi.
According to the court record read in court, Porter entered Neisler’s home while she was away on January 10, 2020. Upon returning home, Porter sexually assaulted her and after immobilizing her, stabbed her in many times. He then set Neisler’s room on fire to cover up the evidence.
Porter was also responsible for the death of Neisler’s companion dog, Pepper.
Harmon, who had been hired by Porter to represent him in the aggravated theft case and then remained in the murder case, said the bullet was in Porter’s court until he pleaded guilty on Wednesday.
“It was totally (Porter’s) decision on the timing,” Harmon said. “(Porter) could have asked me to ask for an extension and the judge would have granted it,” Harmon said. “(What he did today) shows an acceptance of responsibility.
“But all (Porter) had to do was say, ‘I’m not ready to do this today,’ and I would have answered all of his questions at a later date next time before we got to the front. the tribunal.”
Porter, who made a detailed statement to Springfield Police investigators about the crime, faces a sentence ranging from 54 to 140 years.
Porter is expected to serve a sentence of 100% for first degree murder, 85% for home invasion, aggravated sexual assault and armed robbery and 50% for cover up murder.
Porter’s sentencing was set for September 29.
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, [email protected], twitter.com/stevenspearie.