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No bail for woman charged with murder of Region sports figure
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No bail for woman charged with murder of Region sports figure

Raquel McCormick

Raquel McCormick

CROWN POINT — A Lake Criminal Court judge denied a petition to allow bail Thursday for a Highland woman charged with murdering Region sports figure Thomas Brankin last year.

Raquel M. McCormick, 49, is accused of hitting Brankin, her boyfriend, with her Chevrolet Equinox on Aug. 11, 2020, in downtown Highland, causing a massive head injury that led to his death Sept. 1, 2020, at a Dyer rehabilitation facility.

McCormick has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, attempted murder and aggravated battery.

Defendants in murder cases have a right to petition for bail, which can be granted if the court finds the state failed to prove "by a preponderance of the evidence" that the presumption of a defendant's guilt of murder — not a lesser offense — is strong. 

Magistrate Kathleen Sullivan presided over McCormick's three bail hearings in May. Judge Samuel Cappas denied McCormick's petition Wednesday.

Ride along with Officer Jimmy Weller as he patrols the region's border of Lake Michigan as part of the Lake County Sheriff's Marine Unit. Video by Connor Burge. 

Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Infiniti Westberg wrote in court filings McCormick called 911, but avoided questions about whether she hit the 53-year-old Brankin with her SUV. When police arrived, McCormick told officers Brankin was OK and did not need an ambulance, she wrote.

McCormick could have backed up into an alley during an argument with Brankin in the 2900 block of Highway Avenue, Westberg wrote. Instead, she accelerated toward Brankin and hit him, then left the scene, the deputy prosecutor said.

When McCormick returned to the scene and called 911, she was "extremely callous," Westberg wrote.

She coldly told Brankin to get up and asked, "Is this how we are going to end this?"

McCormick did not act in "sudden heat," because the only time Brankin was heard arguing with her was when she refused to give his phone back, Westberg wrote. His phone was later recovered from McCormick's SUV.

"The defendant knew what she was doing and what could happen when she intentionally used her vehicle as a deadly weapon and struck Thomas Brankin," Westberg wrote. "There is no mitigation for her conduct."

McCormick's attorneys, Paul Stracci and Michael Woods, wrote police testified McCormick appeared "upset," "distraught" and concerned about Brankin's well-being when they arrived.

A Highland police report indicated a witness saw the front bumper quarter panel of McCormick's SUV hit Brankin, but that witness testified during bail hearings he saw Brankin "slam his hands on the hood of the car while standing in the area of the driver's side door."

That witness admitted on the stand he did not witness Brankin being hit, the defense attorneys wrote.

Evidence showed the SUV was traveling at less than 5 mph when it made contact with Brankin, and the vehicle's crash data retrieval system didn't record a crash Aug. 11, 2020, the attorneys wrote.

An officer testified damage to McCormick's vehicle was not consistent with a 200-pound man falling on it, the defense said.

Stracci and Woods questioned a forensic pathologist's conclusion that Brankin's death was a direct result of the injuries he suffered Aug. 11, 2020.

The defense suggested Brankin could have experienced dizziness after he received an injection of an anticoagulant, causing him to fall and suffer a fatal head injury at the rehabilitation center.

"A reasonable person could infer that Brankin died from an intervening event unrelated to his injuries sustained on Aug. 11," the attorneys wrote.

Westberg rejected that argument, writing it would not be extraordinary for a patient who suffered a massive head injury to later fall.

"If the defendant had not struck Thomas Brankin with her vehicle, he would have never been in any medical care and would not have died from a head injury," the deputy prosecutor wrote. "The defendant is the sole cause of the victim's peril."

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