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Star witness in Illinois double-murder trial recounts robbery plan

By Dawn Reiss

JOLIET Ill. (Reuters) - The star witness in the trial of a grisly double murder that shocked veteran police officers in the Chicago suburb of Joliet testified on Thursday how she and her friends planned to rob their two male victims.

Alisa Massaro, 20, who has pleaded guilty to lesser charges of concealing a homicide and robbery, testified for the prosecution in the trial of her former friend, Bethany McKee, also 20, who is charged with first-degree murder.

The victims, Terrance Rankins and Eric Glover, both 22, were robbed of $120 and strangled to death in a duplex in Joliet on January 9, 2013. Police have alleged the killers also planned to dismember the victims' bodies.

Joshua Miner, 26, and Adam Landerman, 21, are also charged in the murders but will be tried separately.

In the fourth day of the trial, which is expected to conclude early next week, Massaro spoke in whispers and recounted how she, McKee, Miner and Landerman planned to rob Rankins, who they believed was flush with cash from allegedly dealing drugs.

McKee did not visibly react to her former friend's testimony.

Massaro said they had invited Rankins over, and he arrived with his friend Glover.

After an hour of drinking tequila, Massaro said, her on-again-off-again boyfriend Miner made a slitting motion across his throat.

"Josh had given me the signal so we could get out of the way and do what they needed to do," Massaro said.

She said she went outside the duplex, but later returned and heard noises from the room where the men were. That was when she heard Miner saying, "Die, die," Massaro said.

"I was convinced the robbery was going to happen," Massaro said. "But I didn't think anyone was going to get hurt."

She admitted lying to the police because she was scared and wanted to protect Miner, who had recently been released from jail after serving time for burglary.

McKee's defense attorney read portions of a letter Massaro wrote to her stepfather from jail, which said, "I'm not dumb enough to be in jail for the rest of my life."

Massaro testified in exchange for a plea deal under which she has been sentenced to 10 years in prison but will be eligible for release in less than four years.

(Reporting by Dawn Reiss in Joliet, Ill.; Editing by Fiona Ortiz, Mary Wisniewski and Mohammad Zargham)

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