Gang leaders ordered shooting, defendant says

by Jennifer Pruitt
February 03, 1998

William Bigeck told a Cook County Criminal Court judge that Matthew Sopron, 24, of 7036 W. 64th St., and Wayne Antusas, 29, of 6143 S. Natoma Ave., ordered him and another gang member to shoot at a rival gang's van.

Helena Martin and her friend Carrie Hovel were shot in the head on Dec. 14, 1995, while sitting in the van across from their school, Nathan Hale Elementary, at 6100 S. Melvina Ave. The eighth-graders were talking to three youths including Martin's boyfriend, who belonged to a rival street gang, when they were shot, police said.

Last June, a jury convicted a policeman's son, Eric Anderson, of West 63rd Street, of firing the fatal shots into the van. Anderson, then 15, and Bigeck had stolen the gun from the home of a police officer the day of the shooting, according to the testimony.

Sopron and Antusas are charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

Prosecutors contend that Sopron was head of the Almighty Popes' "67th & Normandy" faction and that Antusas was his second in command.

"Sopron told us that we should pull a roll on the Ridgeway Lords," Bigeck testified. "[The rival gang] had been graffiti-ing up the neighborhood and throwing down gang signs. [Sopron] wanted rid of them."

Bigeck testified that Sopron planned the shooting, but later Antusas told them not to follow Sopron's plan because "it would make too much noise, and we would probably get caught." Antusas provided an alternative plan that the gang members later followed, Bigeck said.

Defense attorneys argued that Sopron never ordered the shooting.

"You testified in another trial that Sopron said 'you should.' You said he never gave an official order," defense attorney David Piellet said to Bigeck.

Although Bigeck agreed that the order sounded like a suggestion, he testified that Sopron would have beat him up if he did not proceed with the shooting.

"You pretty much got to listen to [Sopron]," he said, "because if you don't, you get violated. Yeah, it was pretty much an order."

But defense attorneys argue that Sopron and Antusas were never mentioned until nine months after the murders when prosecutors offered to spare Bigeck the death penalty if he would testify against the two men.

"You'd do anything to get out of the death penalty, right?" Piellet asked Bigeck on cross examination.

"That's correct," Bigeck replied reluctantly.

Attempting to discredit him further, Piellet probed Bigeck about his felony charges for possession of marijuana in a jail.

Bigeck admitted that he had smoked marijuana while he was in the witness protection program at the Cook County Jail.

Defense attorneys contend that Bigeck gave a police officer $300 to buy him marijuana.

Felony charges are in violation of Bigeck's plea agreement that he made with prosecutors, they argued.