A Belleville jury convened for a coroner's inquest today ruled that 23-year-old Anthony Rice
was murdered outside the City Nights club
on October 3, 2009.
Brian Clay, a special agent with the Illinois State Police
, told the six-member jury that Rice was struck and killed by a car outside the East Saint Louis club, following an altercation.
The jury proceeded to determine that the death was a homicide.
The St. Clair County Coroner
had referred the case to the jury in order to rule on the manner of death, a procedural matter that's necessary to finalize a death certificate. The ruling will have no bearing on what -- if any -- criminal charges
are filed by the St. Clair County State's Attorney
Clay said he has at
least one suspect in the case, and that his investigation continues.
The ruling came as a relief to the dozen family members assembled for the inquest. In open court, Rice's mother, Annette Nash-Smith
, cried "Thank you, Jesus!"
Rice's family said they also felt vindicated upon learning that an autopsy of Anthony's body revealed a blood-alcohol content of .025
, well below the legal limit (.08).
The family has been holding demonstrations outside City Hall in East Saint Louis since the fall, demanding that the man whom they believe struck and killed Rice be charged with the crime.
"If he was black, and Anthony was white, [the alleged killer] would have been awaiting trial in prison since October 4. Why he's still walking the street is ridiculous to me," Justin Meehan
, a St. Louis attorney and relative of Rice's, tells Daily RFT
The scuffle between Rice and security guards at the club occurred after the guards, who were white, allegedly told Rice, his brother and two friends, who are black, that they couldn't enter the club.
Rice's brother, Aubrey, tells Daily RFT
that they were chased in the parking lot by at least ten men who came running out of the club, several of them carrying Tasers. One of the men sported a swastika tattoo.
Aubrey Rice says that after the car struck Anthony once, he was trying to give Anthony CPR when he saw the same car coming "down the hill, at full-speed, lining up with Anthony's body. I lay him down, I got in my car, and I accelerated, trying to block the guy from running over Anthony again. I hit him head-on."
Aubrey Rice says when he woke up after the crash, police were on the scene, but the perpetrators were gone.
City Nights burned to the ground
in December, two months after the incident.
Anthony Rice's father, Anthony Rice Sr., says he hopes charges will be filed. "I have faith in the system. I'm going to let St. Clair County do their job."