The Illinois State Appellate Court ruled Tuesday that a 51-year-old man, who is serving a 50-year sentence for a 2002 murder near Antioch, can request a new trial to be exonerated after affidavits point to his innocence.
Ronald E. Ruhl, 51, who was from Crystal Lake according to the Chicago Tribune, was sentenced to 50-years in prison in 2003 for the murder of Richard Neubauer, 27, who was from Lake Villa.
At the 2003 trial, prosecutors said Ruhl fatally shot Neubauer at the parking lot of Whiplash Bar & Grill near Antioch in January 2002.
Another man, Raymond Serio, who is from Round Lake, was also sentenced to 50-years in prison for ordering Ruhl to kill Neubauer.
Serio, who was one of the owners of the bar, wanted to pursue a relationship with Neubauer’s girlfriend, Denise Schubat, prosecutors said.
Schubat worked as a bartender at Whiplash. Neubauer was in the parking lot waiting in his car to pick up Schubat after work on January 6, 2002.
Prosecutors said that Serio ordered Ruhl to shoot and kill Neubauer so Serio could start the relationship with Schubat.
Neubauer was shot in the head, but prosecutors said he was still alive.
Prosecutors said that Ruhl rolled Neubauer into the passenger seat of his car and then drove Neubauer to the nearby Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin while Serio followed the two in his car.
Ruhl crashed Neubauer’s car into a fence at the entrance of the fairgrounds and then shot Neubauer several more times, killing him, according to prosecutors.
In the morning, a Lake County sheriff’s deputy on patrol on State Line Road near Old Route 41 observed Neubauer’s car parked at the entrance to the fairgrounds.
Prosecutors said the deputy observed damage to the closed entrance gates and corresponding damage to the front end of the car.
When the deputy looked inside the passenger-side window, he observed Neubauer slumped down with three gunshot wounds.
No firearms, bullets or shell casings were located at the scene, prosecutors said. After an investigation, Serio and Ruhl were arrested.
In December 2018, Ruhl filed a motion asking for post-conviction relief and claimed he was innocent after presenting multiple affidavits, including two from Serio, which said that Ruhl did not kill Neubauer.
Serio claimed that he was the one who murdered Neubauer and that he forced Ruhl to help him dispose of the body.
“Serio stated in both affidavits that he was confessing because he was thinking about defendant ‘spending his life in prison for something I did,'” court documents say.
Lake County Judge James K. Booras denied Ruhl’s motion for post-conviction relief.
After Ruhl appealed the denial, the state appellate court reversed the circuit court’s judgment and ruled Tuesday that Ruhl can request a new trial after justices determined that the affidavits “set forth a colorable claim of actual innocence.”