MURPHYSBORO — A De Soto man charged with first-degree murder of a 76-year-old man shared vivid details about the murder and how the victim's wife assisted in the crime, according to court documents.

James Michael Deese, 52, pleaded guilty in July to the death of Frank Stonemark, 76, of De Soto and the concealment of his body.

Court records show that after a March 22 conversation with investigators, Deese admitted he killed Stonemark, but he said he had help. Later in July, Stonemark’s wife, Carmen Stonemark, 54, was indicted by a grand jury on first-degree murder charges in her husband’s death. Additionally, she was indicted on two counts of solicitation of murder alleging she requested Deese commit the offense, and concealment of a homicidal death.

According to court documents, Deese, who was a former employee of Stonemark, said he strangled Stonemark at a residence in De Soto and that Carmen Stonemark was present at the time. He said he killed Stonemark in the kitchen, and then the two removed Stonemark’s body from the home. Deese said he and Carmen Stonemark put the body in a van belonging to Stonemark and took his body to a property on Stonemark Drive in rural Carbondale.

Deese went into specific details in an interview with police about how he lined the floor of the van in plastic wrap and placed the same wrap on top of Stonemark’s body. Once they left the De Soto property, he said, Carmen Stonemark followed him in another vehicle. Once on Stonemark Drive, Deese told officers they unloaded the body and hid it in a pile of tree limbs and bushes. Then, the two drove back to the De Soto residence.

The next day, according to court records, Deese and Carmen Stonemark drove back to the Stonemark property, picked up the van, and drove to Paducah in separate cars, Deese told officers. Deese said the two made phone calls on burner cellphones and then ditched the van at a Kmart in Paducah. Deese said that while on the way to Paducah, Carmen Stonemark called authorities to report her husband missing.

Deese said that at a later date the two returned to the Carbondale property to remove Stonemark’s body. He said the two stopped at a Rural King to purchase black trash bags and gloves. He said the two also stopped at a location nicknamed “Little California” to pick up chainsaws.

Deese said when they returned to the property, the two dismembered Stonemark’s body with a chainsaw, maul, pruning saw, and a pocket knife. Deese said he cut off Stomemark’s arms, legs, head, and sawed his torso in two pieces. He then placed the body parts into trash bags while Carmen Stonemark tied them. They then loaded the body parts into trash bags and into the trunk of a car.

The two went back to De Soto and burned the body parts and trash bags, Deese told officers.

Court documents say, based on interviews with Deese, investigators were able to find Stonemark's body, and after a search warrant found blood stains in the van.

A search of the De Soto property where Carmen Stonemark and her son lived turned up charred plastic, bone fragments, Rural King receipts, charred chainsaws, and blood evidence, court documents say.

According to court records, when Carmen Stonemark spoke to De Soto Police Officer Ryne Bryant on Oct. 30, she said Stonemark hadn’t been home all day and she couldn’t reach him by telephone. She said she and Stonemark got into an argument on Oct. 29, and he left. She told police that it wasn’t the first time the two got into an argument and he left for several days.

Carmen Stonemark has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is set for a jury trial on Oct. 15.

If Carmen Stonemark is convicted of first-degree murder, she will face up to 20 to 60 years in prison without the possibility of parole. Solicitation of murder carries a sentence of 15 to 30 years and does not come with probation.

Concealment of a homicidal death carries a sentence of two to five years and concealment of a death has a potential sentence of one to three years.

Deese is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 15 on the first-degree murder charge. The counts of concealment have been dropped per the deal of the plea.

According to court documents signed by Carr, the state has recommended a sentence of 25 years for Deese. He would be 77 years old before he is eligible for release.

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Dustin Duncan is a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering Carbondale.

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