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St. Peter teen charged with murder

Updated with suspect’s name.


A 17-year-old St. Peter male has been arrested and charged with the first degree murder of a Salem teen over the weekend.

The Illinois State Police Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) Zone 8 announced the arrest on Tuesday afternoon. Kaden A. Phillips has been formally charged as an adult in Fayette County Court.

On Saturday, January 20, 2024 at approximately 8:13 p.m., officials from the ISP DCI Zone 8 was requested by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department to conduct a homicide investigation, where a 14-year-old male was shot and killed inside a residence in the 700 block of North 2200 Street in rural St. Peter.

Fayette County Coroner Dave Harris reported that a juvenile was shot and killed in rural Fayette County on the evening of Saturday, Jan. 20. The victim was pronounced dead by Harris. Police say a suspect fled the scene and was later apprehended that day.

Others on scene included personnel from the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Vandalia Police Department, St. Elmo Police Department and the St. Peter Fire Department. They were joined by the CSI and the Department of Criminal Investigation from the state police, Harris said.

After a thorough investigation, the Fayette County State’s Attorney’s Office will be charging the 17-year-old male with First Degree Murder and Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm, according to a press release. The 17-year-old is in custody at the Fayette County Jail.   

Harris also said an autopsy was conducted in Springfield on Monday.

According to charging documents from the Fayette County Circuit Clerk’s Office, Phillips allegedly committed the offense of first degree murder on Jan. 20 when he shot a 14-year-old identified as D.B. in the chest with a gun “knowing said act would cause the death” when he shot the victim in the chest with a firearm.

Documents also state that Phillips was charged with attempted first degree murder, a Class X felony, when he “took a substantial step toward the commission” when he “without lawful justification and with the intent to kill” D.B.

Phillips is also charged with Class 1 felony aggravated discharge of a fire arm.

If convicted of first degree murder, Phillips could be sentenced to between 20 years and life in prison. The Class X felony carries a potential sentencing between 6 and 30 years, and the Class 1 firearm charge is between 4 and 15 years.

The name of the victim has been identified in published reports as Dakota Branch of Salem. In a letter to parents and guardians, Dr. Leslie Foppe confirmed that an eighth grade student from the school had died and that faculty and staff are on hand to address “the needs of students, parents, and school personnel at difficult times as this.” Counselors, social workers and staff are also reportedly available for any student or parent who may need assistance processing the loss.

“This loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns and questions for our entire school, especially our students,” Foppe said in the statement. 

“We are saddened by the loss to our school community and will make every effort to help you and your child as you need.”

A GoFundMe fundraiser has been set up by Kai Branch, Dakota’s sister.

“Dakota was a kind soul and the best little brother I could ever ask for, and he was taken far too soon,” Kai said on the GoFundMe page.