BY BETH HUNDSDORFER NEWS-DEMOCRAT
BELLEVILLE -- When St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic told LaTosha Cunningham that she was charged with the first-degree murder of 85-year-old Yoko Cullen, she passed out.
She began to roll on the floor in front of the judge's bench, screaming and moaning as Belleville Police officer Rob Rust and bailiff Luke Probst helped her into a chair.
"LaTosha, there's a chair behind you," Rust told her. "You have to sit in it."
Belleville Police Officer Rob Rust escorts LaTosha A. Cunningham to court Monday. Cunningham is charged with the murder of Yoko Cullen. - Derik Holtmann/BND
Baricevic continued to read the charges that alleged Cunningham, 37, of 1406 Radiance Drive in Belleville, along with DaQuan D. Barnes, 18, of 2440 Logan Ave. in Granite City and DeMarcus Barnes, 28, of 511 N. Douglas Ave. in Belleville killed Cullen.
Baricevic asked an apparently incoherent Cunningham if she could hear him. Her head lolled but then she mumbled "yes." He continued reading the charges that stated Cullen died after she was placed in the trunk of her 2008 Mazda and her car was set ablaze.
Cunningham then began to retch into a hastily provided waste can as about 10 Belleville police officers, including Chief William Clay, looked on from the courtroom gallery.
East St. Louis police found Cullen car burning Friday morning at 11th Street and Falling Springs Road. The car was towed by the Metro-East Auto Theft Task Force on Friday.
Belleville Police received a missing person report on Cullen, who had not been seen by family members since Thursday.
Major Case Squad Commander Jeff Wild called the crime "a crime of opportunity." Cullen was carjacked by the three about 10 p.m. Thursday as she left the Fireman's Hall at 9510 Collinsville Road in Collinsville.
During the hearing, Baricevic appointed a public defender to represent Cunningham.
Cunningham served a 9-year prison sentence for an armed robbery conviction from 1992.
After the hearing, Cunningham left the courthouse in a wheelchair, headed for the St. Clair County Jail. Her bail is set at $3 million.