By Steve Schmadeke and Lolly Bowean, Tribune reporters
8:46 p.m. CDT, May 11, 2010
A former Marine who neighbors say obsessed over his University Park lawn is being held on $3 million bail, accused of gunning down a neighbor whose puppy urinated on the man's well-manicured grass.
Charles J. Clements, 69, had won the south suburb's beautification and lawn upkeep award but also was known for threatening people who dared to set foot in his yard, neighbors said.
Joshua Funches, a 23-year-old father of two, was walking his fox terrier Gucci in the 500 block of Landau Road on Sunday night when the dog lifted its leg and went on Clements' lawn, said Funches' mother Patricia, 53.
The two men began arguing, and at some point, Clements, a retired truck driver, pulled out a pistol and pointed it at Funches, a Crete-Monee High School graduate who drove a bus, said Will County Assistant State's Attorney Sondra Denmark.
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Witnesses said Funches then said to Clements, "Next time you pull out a pistol, why don't you use it?" Denmark said. At that point, witnesses said they saw orange and white light and heard a loud noise. They saw Funches fall to the ground.
"It was all over a little wooden plaque," said an emotional Patricia Funches, referring to the beautification award. "It was a senseless death."
Clements then returned to his house and changed his clothes. When University Park police arrived, they found the master landscaper in his garage with the door open.
"I knew you were coming for me," he told police, according to Denmark. "That's why I changed my clothes. I knew you were coming for me."
Neighbors were shocked that such deadly violence could have stemmed from a minor fight.
"It hurt me pretty bad, to see a person killed over something so petty," said Joanne Byers, who lives across the street from where Funches died.
Byers said her own son had a run-in with Clements, once accidentally stepping on the man's grass while walking and chatting on his cell phone.
"Man, he popped out and called, 'Hey watch it — watch it!'" said Byers.
Funches had two children, ages 1 and 4, with another due in August, his mother said.
Judge Marzell Richardson ordered Clements, who had no criminal history, held in lieu of $3 million bail Tuesday on first- and second-degree murder charges. He noted that Clements allegedly told Funches that he would be found innocent if arrested.
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