Prosecutors: Suspect in baby killing told others about the crime

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CHICAGO (CNN) — Prosecutors said Tuesday the career criminal accused of killing a 6-month-old Chicago girl admitted to other people that he shot into the van where Jonylah Watkins was sitting on her father’s lap in March.

Before Koman Willis’ bond hearing was postponed until June 6, Assistant State’s Attorney Heather Kent said his cell phone and his girlfriend’s minivan could be traced to the area at the time of the killing through phone records and surveillance video.

She claimed there was at least one unidentified witness who stepped forward and said that Willis admitted to the March 11 shooting.

According to court documents, Willis saw Jonathan Watkins, Jonylah’s father. Suspecting that Watkins had stolen a Sony PlayStation system and drugs from the home of his mother, Willis went to get a gun, the documents say. Willis drove a van to the alley where Watkins was parked and changing Jonylah’s diaper; he walked up behind the van and fired four shots, the documents say.

Prosecutors say Willis began firing as Watkins lifted his baby up to give her a kiss. Jonylah, whose death was held up nationally as a new low in Chicago’s gun violence, passed away the next day.

After the shooting, Willis parked the van in a garage and removed the plates.

Lawyers ask for more time

On Tuesday, his lawyers said they needed more time to prepare their case.

Willis, 33, is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.

In announcing Willis’ arrest on Monday, Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy said the suspect is a gang member with 38 prior arrests.

Kent said Tuesday that Willis’ extensive criminal record includes a 2002 arrest for aggravated assault to a police officer for which he served a three-year prison sentence. He also had been charged several times for felony drug possession.

Willis turned himself in Saturday afternoon. He came in with an attorney because he knew police were looking for him, McCarthy said.

The superintendent said this was not a case of gang violence even though the suspect and the victim’s father have ties to gangs.

“We believe the motivation was the burglary,” he said. He said it was unlikely Watkins, 29, will be charged with theft.

New witnesses ‘got the ball rolling’

Lead investigator Kevin Duffin said police were able to identify new witnesses last week.

“They provided some key information that got the ball rolling,” he said.

No weapon or getaway van has been recovered, police said. McCarthy said “we’re still not at that point” to say that Willis acted alone, but no other charges are expected soon.

Jonathan Watkins, who was seriously wounded in the shooting, didn’t attend the news conference. He was expected to meet with media later Tuesday.

“The family spent the day at the grave site,” Corey Brooks, pastor of the New Beginnings Church of Chicago, told reporters, adding he called the family when he learned that Willis had being charged.

“They are very grateful and thankful. Hopefully they will be able to put this part behind them and go forward.”