Report via Rockford Register Star — A Rockford man who was reported missing June 1 was beaten to death with a baseball bat before his body was set on fire, according to a criminal complaint filed in Winnebago County.
The body of William Pickering, a 23-year-old rapper who also went by EBE Bandz and Billy Da Kid, was found Thursday in unincorporated Winnebago County. Police did not disclose where his body was found. Charging documents allege he was killed on or about May 25.
Two people have been charged in connection to Pickering’s death and a third person is being sought. William Arzate, 22, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of concealment of a homicidal death. Arzate’s bond is set at $1 million. Manuel Ramirez, 22, is charged with concealment of a homicidal death. Ramirez is being held on $500,000 bond. Police are searching for Dakota Graff, 20, who they said is wanted on unrelated warrants.
According to the criminal complaint, Arzate struck Pickering in the head with a baseball bat causing his death. The complaint states Arzate and Ramirez then moved Pickering’s body to a wooded area in Winnebago County and set it on fire. The complaint states Arzate was “acting with two others” when he killed Pickering, but it does not name those people.
Police made an initial missing persons and welfare check for Pickering almost three weeks ago, when his red car was removed from a garage in the 500 block of Fisher Avenue near his home.
Authorities disclosed few details about the case. Police Chief Dan O’Shea said detectives located several “people of interest” in the case on Thursday, and the investigation led them to a crime scene in the 5200 block of Indianhead Avenue. Further investigation led detectives to Pickering’s body, which was found in a wooded area in unincorporated Winnebago County according to the criminal complaints.
During their first appearances in bond court Friday afternoon, Judge John Gibbons denied requests to reduce bond for both men.
Ramirez’s attorney, Rene Hernandez, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf and argued for a $5,000 bond. He said Ramirez only prior offenses have been traffic tickets.
“He doesn’t belong in jail,” Hernandez said. “Five hundred thousand is completely excessive on a Class 3 (felony) with no priors.”
Assistant Public Defender Sean Trausch also asked for a lower bond for Arzate, not specifying a number. He, too, said Arzate’s only prior offenses have been traffic violations.
Deputy State’s Attorney Brenda Quade asked that both men have no contact with each other, Graff, and a fourth man, Colton Kennicker. Gibbons agreed. Graff and Kennicker have not been charged in connection with the rapper’s death.
“We’re looking for more people,” Quade said after the hearing. She declined to comment on whether Graff or Kennicker could face charges.
After the hearing, Hernandez said he will continue to seek a bond reduction for Ramirez and request a speedy trial.
“He was asked to do a favor and had no knowledge he was transporting a body,” Hernandez said. “We were unhappy the judge maintained the $500,000 bond. He didn’t commit the crime of hurting this individual.”
Gibbons set their next court date for July 25 before Judge Randy Wilt.