Judge declines to send Troy man accused of murdering girlfriend back to jail
Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.
A Troy man charged with murder will remain free on bond after a ruling Tuesday that tested a new Illinois law that eliminated cash bail as a way to ensure that defendants show up for court.
Michael S. Perham, 52, is accused of murdering his girlfriend, Maha Tiimob, 25, on Sept. 5 in their apartment. Police called it a “domestic disturbance shooting resulting in death.”
A detention hearing was held Tuesday morning at the Madison County Criminal Justice Center in Edwardsville. Assistant State’s Attorney Ryan Kemper wasn’t able to persuade Associate Judge Neil Schroeder that Perham is a threat to society who should be returned to jail.
Schroeder warned Perham to have no contact with witnesses, including his girlfriend’s friends and co-workers who talked to police about him, noting it would violate his bond agreement.
“If you see these persons in public, turn around and walk the other way,” the judge told Perham, who appeared in court wearing a salt-and-pepper beard, wire-rimmed glasses and a gray suit.
The Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity Today Act, also known as the SAFE-T Act, took effect Sept. 18.
If a prosecutor wants someone charged with a crime to be kept in jail until trial, a judge must hold a detention hearing and hear arguments instead of setting bail based on charges alone. Proponents say it’s fairer to poor people who don’t have cash for bail.
In Perham’s case, he had already posted a $100,000 bond, which was 10% of the $1 million bail set by Associate Judge A. Ryan Jumper. That occurred three days after his arrest and before the SAFE-T Act took effect.
On Sept. 18, State’s Attorney Tom Haine’s office filed a “petition to deny defendant pretrial release,” essentially asking for a retroactive detention hearing. Kemper noted that Perham had accumulated a large number of guns at his apartment and admitted shooting his “unarmed” girlfriend.
After the hearing, Haine declined to discuss evidence in the case but reiterated his belief that the new law is flawed.
“I think the contours of the SAFE-T Act will continue to be fleshed out in cases like this, and it shows that the black-and-white world that the SAFE-T Act offers the criminal-justice system to detain or not detain may not be appropriate in every circumstance,” he said.
Perham has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, although his attorney has acknowledged that he shot Tiimob.
In a phone call on Monday, Perham referred questions to that attorney, Jessica Koester, of Edwardsville. When asked if he had anything to say about the case, he replied, “I’m not guilty.”
In a news release last month, Troy Police Chief Chris Wasser stated that his department received a report Sept. 5 of a shooting at an apartment building at 2146 Tramore Drive. When officers arrived, a man was standing at the entrance with his hands raised above his head.
Officers then found a woman unresponsive with multiple bullet wounds. Attempts to save her life by police and emergency medical technicians failed, and she was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the release.
Perham’s detention hearing provided many more details, prompting Haine to point out that both the prosecution and defense had to reveal evidence for a “mini trial” in the early stages of investigation.
The hearing revealed that Perham and Tiimob had been in a relationship for six years and lived together in a townhouse apartment, and it was Perham who made the 911 call to police around 5 a.m.
Kemper, the prosecutor, told Judge Schroeder that:
- Perham maintained that Tiimob was chasing him with a knife but investigators found no knife in her hand.
- Perham fired eight shots with a 9mm handgun, five of which hit Tiimob, including two shots in her back.
- Neighbors in the apartment building reported that they had heard loud arguments between Perham and Tiimob in the past.
- Perham claimed that Tiimob wouldn’t let him leave the apartment that morning.
- Perham misled police by implying that Tiimob had been home all night when she was actually at a bar at 2 a.m. and then went to a house party.
- Tiimob told friends she was having boyfriend problems and Perham had gotten angry after her “inappropriate relationship” with another man.
Koester, the defense attorney, described Perham as a U.S. Army veteran and IT specialist who had never been arrested and had followed all requirements of his bond agreement since being released from jail.
Koester confirmed that Perham had relinquished his Firearm Owner’s Identification Card and turned all his guns over to authorities.
“He has been living his life in the community without issue,” she said.
Koester also told Judge Schroeder:
- Tiimob, who stood 6-foot-1 and weighed more than 300 pounds, had a history of heavy drinking and “violent tendencies.”
- Her parents in Maryland had called 911 at least five times due to her “out-of-control” behavior, resulting in “mental transport” in some cases.
- Perham had called Troy and Maryville police on Tiimob, and they had to settle her down.
- Tiimob was kicked out of Washington University in St. Louis due to “drunk and violent” incidents.
- Tiimob got “wasted” on Tito’s vodka at the bar on Sept. 5 and came home to “pick a fight” with Perham, who just wanted to sleep.
- Tiimob chased Perham down the stairs and told him “If you leave, I’m going to f**king kill you” and asked, “Where’s my knife?”
“(Tiimob) is a woman who has a history of drinking too much, becoming violent and mental instability,” Koester said, adding that Perham shot her because he was “terrified.”
Perham sat at the defense table looking straight ahead at the hearing. Several times during Kemper and Koester’s statements, he removed his glasses and appeared to wipe tears from his eyes.
Judge Schroeder noted that Perham had undergone a court-ordered assessment for his level of flight risk and scored “0.”
“That’s as low as you can get,” the judge said.
The petition to deny defendant pretrial release is a form with boxes that are checked to indicate why a prosecutor believes someone should be kept in jail until his or her trial date.
In the petition for Perham, a box is checked next to the statement that “a non-probationable felony and the defendant’s pretrial release poses a specific, real and present threat to any person or the community.”
Perham’s $100,000 bond was posted by Oklahoma attorney Derek Chance. It’s not known how the two men are related. Chance didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday.
Teri Maddox is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.