Crime & Courts

Gerken sentenced to 60 years in murder of DeKalb man

Christopher Gerken sits with defense attorney Clay Campbell during his trial Aug. 10 at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore. Gerken convicted of murder of in the slaying of Matthew Clark in DeKalb.[]

DeKALB – Christopher Gerken likely will spend the rest of his life in prison under his sentence for the 2015 murder of a DeKalb man. 

DeKalb County Judge Robbin Stuckert on Tuesday sentenced Gerken, 27, of Sycamore, to 60 years in prison for fatally shooting 26-year-old Matthew Clark on Oct. 6, 2015, on the porch of a home in the 800 block of Pleasant Street in DeKalb. Stuckert also denied Gerken’s motion for a new trial. 

A jury of seven men and five women found Gerken guilty of first-degree murder Aug. 10, rejecting Gerken’s claim he shot Clark in self-defense. Gerken was angry with Clark because he thought Clark had shorted him in a cocaine deal.

Gerken maintained his defense during his sentencing Tuesday.

“This is a wrongful conviction,” Gerken said, according to audio from the hearing. “I acted in self-defense that night.” 

Prosecutors said forensic evidence showed Gerken shot Clark in the back with a .357 magnum revolver as Clark retreated back into his home. Clark was taken to Kishwaukee Hospital, where he died in an emergency room that night.

First Assistant State’s Attorney Stephanie Klein requested a 70-year sentence, while Gerken’s lawyer, Clay Campbell, argued for 50 years. 

Campbell could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

During Gerken’s sentencing, Stuckert said Gerken hadn’t shown he wouldn’t commit the crime again, pointing out he’s been disciplined while in jail for fighting over the TV after he had been convicted in August. Gerken also shared a cell with Brandon Washington, and police had reported he was drinking homemade “hooch” with him on the night that Washington died of a heroin overdose in February 2016.

Clark’s father, Milton Clark, told everyone inside the courtroom that he thinks about his son each day and reflects on the last hours, minutes and seconds of Matthew’s life. 

“I often wonder about the amount of pain he was experiencing,” Milton Clark said on the audio recording. “I agonize how I wasn’t there to protect him and to help him and to ease his discomfort.”