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Thursday, July 11, 2013 09:19 am

Parolee accused of murder has long criminal record

Zoning violations could shut down halfway houses

A prison parolee accused of beating a homeless woman to death on June 1 faces decades in prison if convicted. Meanwhile, the transitional home in Springfield to which he was paroled faces zoning violations that could shut it down.

On June 1, 47-year-old homeless woman Rebecca Cleaton was found beaten and strangled to death in an abandoned house on North Ninth Street. It’s unclear how long Cleaton was homeless, but Sangamon County Coroner Cinda Edwards said her family is from Georgia and her emergency room records go back about 12 years in Springfield. Cleaton’s death is being treated as a homicide, Edwards said, adding that the county is waiting for results of DNA evidence tests to come back from the Illinois State Police crime lab.

A few days after Cleaton was found dead, Mark Anthony Brown, 50, was found 75 miles away in Champaign. He had illegally removed his electronic monitoring bracelet and left Springfield without notifying authorities.

Brown has a criminal record stretching back to 1990, when he was arrested for burglary in Champaign County, convicted in 1991 and sentenced to four years in prison. In 1997, Brown was arrested for domestic battery, convicted and later sentenced to 18 months in prison. In 2004, Brown, then 42, was convicted in Texas of exposing his genitals to a 16-year-old girl, for which he was sentenced to a year in prison.

Ordered to register as a sex offender, Brown didn’t keep the terms of his parole after returning to Illinois.  He was convicted in 2009 of failing to register as a sex offender and sentenced to three years in prison. In July and September of 2010, Brown twice came up for parole but was not released because there was no “host site” to take him.

Finding housing for parolees is a constant problem in the correctional system; so much so that the Illinois Department of Corrections pays $30 per day to contractors who will house parolees. The payment for accepting sex offenders is $45 per day.

Brown was finally paroled in January 2011, after a year-and-a-half, but just six months later he was again convicted of failing to register as a sex offender, for which he received another three-year prison sentence. Once more, Brown came up for parole but was not released because there was no host site for him. Finally, in April 2013, Brown was paroled to Springfield, where he lived in one of the transitional parolee homes called House of the Rainbow along the 10th Street rail corridor on Springfield’s north side.

Less than two months later, a warrant was issued for Brown’s arrest when he removed his GPS tracking bracelet and skipped town. It was his disappearing act that initially led police to suspect Brown’s involvement in Cleaton’s death, said Springfield Police Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher. IDOC parole officers and the U.S. Marshals Service found Brown in Champaign on June 3 and returned him to Springfield.

Buscher and Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser declined to discuss the specifics of Cleaton’s death, citing Brown’s pending trial.  

Joseph Miller, a Sangamon County public defender assigned to Brown’s case, said he couldn’t discuss specifics of the case. Brown, who is being held on a $2 million bond, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of first degree murder, and Miller said he faces between 20 and 60 years in prison if convicted.

Meanwhile, the House of the Rainbow transitional homes where Brown was living face zoning citations from the City of Springfield. Owned by David Kettelkamp of Taylorville, the houses are currently zoned R-2, which is for single-family homes and duplexes. However, a series of letters from the city to Kettelkamp state that the houses should be zoned R-3, which is the designation for residential uses like transient housing or rehabilitation homes.

The letters show that the city Building and Zoning Department was eyeing Kettelkamp’s operation as early as May 7, nearly a month before Cleaton’s death. Building permits from the department also show that Kettelkamp is in the process of renovating the modest houses.

If the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission finds Kettelkamp’s properties are zoned incorrectly, he would have to file an application for rezoning. If the commission declines to rezone his properties, Kettelkamp’s parolee housing operation could be forced to move or shut down.

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.
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