Larry Bright has a history in Knox County

by Norm Winick

Add another name to the long list of serial killers and mass murderers who have passed through Galesburg and Knox County. Larry Dean Bright, the alleged murderer of up to ten Peoria-area women has a criminal record that goes back nearly 20 years in Knox County, was involved and investigated in a suspicious death, and was accused of beating his former wife in documents filed in Knox County Circuit Court.

Past infamous killers and who have a local connection ó however tenuous ó include Richard Speck, John Wayne Gacy, Simon Peter Nelson, Arlie Ray Davis and Charlie Cohen. Before his case is resolved, Larry Bright may deserve a place near the top of that list.

According to records in the Knox County Circuit Clerk’s office, Larry Bright’s first recorded brush with the law as an adult in Knox County was in January of 1989. Bright, then just 21 years old, was living in Farmington and got involved in an altercation in a tavern in Yates City. He was arguing with another patron named Linda when things got out of hand. The police arrived and Bright reportedly told Yates City officer Chris Carrier, "F--- you! It’s none of your f-----g business." He refused to cooperate and tried to run away. Bright was apprehended, cuffed and brought to Galesburg where he was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The former charge was later dismissed and Bright was sentenced to one year of conditional discharge on the second count.

In 1993, Bright was living with his fiancée, Kristy Belville, in the Rolling Meadows trailer Court in Abingdon.

On August 9th, her 7-month-old daughter, under Bright’s care while her mother slept, started coughing. The child died in an ambulance on the way to Galesburg Cottage Hospital.

The police report at the time called the death "suspicious" and Bright was brought in for questioning. He told the investigating officers that he had tried to save the baby by administering CPR.

Dr. Lanny Turner, the emergency room physician, reported that he was "somewhat suspicious regarding the case. He was concerned that the boyfriend [Bright] had possibly seen blood being coughed up. He was also concerned with the fact that the child’s temperature was 93 degrees when it arrived at the hospital."

Detective James Thompson, now Knox County Sheriff, investigated the case. According to his report, "Bright, Larry D. was to have been examined by the Polygraph Detection of Deception technique by Charles B. Holm, polygraph examiner for the Illinois State Police Division of Forensic Services and Identification."

"Bright did not appear for his examination and again did not appear when rescheduled. Bright’s reason for not appearing was that he had to work. Upon an attempt to again reschedule, Bright stated that he decided not to undergo a polygraph examination. Bright made the decision based on comments made to him by friends."

Thompson concluded his report: "During the interview with Bright on 8-9-93 this R. O. detected no physical or verbal signs of deception an still have no reason to believe that Bright’s version of the death to not be an accurate account."

Thompson and an investigator from DCFS got a warrant and searched the trailer in Abingdon. They reported it was a mess. They found massive numbers of ants and dog feces in one area inside. They read Bright his Miranda rights but he remained "adamant that he had never mistreated the child in any way and that he loved her as his own child."

The autopsy, performed by pathologist Mary Jumbelic, determined that "death was not a result of Shaken Baby Syndrome as first suspected." She did find a heart condition that could have been the cause of death. There were no signs of bruising or abuse.

The case against Bright was closed as unfounded.

Later that month, on August 21, 1993, Bright and Belville were married. It wasn’t a happy or a long union. Less than a month later, on September 16, 1993, Kristy asked for and was granted an order of protection against her husband, claiming "he has been hitting me and won’t leave me alone."

On March 2, 1994, Kristy, then 19, filed for divorce claiming "extreme and repeated mental cruelty.’ She listed both their occupations as "unemployed" and their property totalled a stereo, a fish tank, a trailer and a washer and dryer. Larry’s address was listed in Peoria.

That divorce was never consummated and Kristy’s and it was dismissed on February 29, 1996. Kristy refiled for dissolution in May 1997 saying she was a housekeeping worker and had several thousand dollars in debts. That divorce was granted June 9, 1997.

The Knox County history of Larry Bright indicates a pattern of violence and abuse of women that later erupted in Peoria.