Risinger murder trial underway

By: 
Kate Wehlann, Staff Writer

Joshua Risinger, 29, Salem, appeared in court Monday for the start of his trial. He stands accused of murder in the death of Jeffrey Charles Givan, 62, who investigators say was living as a nomad in the Salem and Pekin areas at the time of his death in March 2017.

Around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, Lenny Hayes called 911 to report a fire at the home of his neighbor, Joshua Risinger, located at 221 Teresa St., in Southway Villa. Emergency personnel responded and the park manager, Roddy Humphrey, told officers he saw a man walking through the trailer park wearing a jacket with something over his head and carrying a duffel bag. Salem Officer Alex Bilbrey patrolled the area, looking for the man and found him on Jackson Street.

Other officers arrived, including Tim Miller and Risinger told officers his house was on fire and he decided to just walk away. When Miller returned to the scene of the fire, firefighters told him they had found a body in the middle of the living room. 

The probable cause affidavit says Risinger later confirmed the home was his and that he’d killed a man, whom he identified only as “Gilbert,” by starting the fire.

“He admitted to setting his home on fire and … admitted he set the fire to kill the person,” said ISP Detective Matt Busick at Risinger’s initial hearing in March 2017. “An autopsy was conducted and the full findings were not conclusive. They did find soot in the lungs, leading us to believe the person was alive when the fire started.”

Should Risinger be found guilty, he will face between 45 and 65 years in prison, with 55 years and a fine of up to $10,000 being the advisory sentence.

Andrew Wright was assigned as Risinger’s attorney, though Risigner said in his initial hearing he wouldn’t ask for one.

“I don’t need one,” he told Medlock, saying he believed he was capable of representing himself.

Editor's note: reporter Kate Wehlann will be following the trial. Check on salemleader.com and Thursday's issue of The Salem Democrat for updates on the trial.

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