Judge: Lafore case can move forward

Kodi Lafore is escorted from the courtroom by Randolph County Sheriff’s Department deputies following Tuesday’s hearing at the Randolph County Courthouse. (North County News photo)

A Waterloo man facing involuntary manslaughter and second degree murder charges in connection with the Jan. 6 stabbing death of a man near Red Bud appeared in court Tuesday at the Randolph County Courthouse in Chester.

Kodi A. Lafore, 23, of Waterloo, is accused of fatally stabbing 36-year-old Adam Sesto south of Red Bud on Huntfield Road north of Blackjack Road.

Lafore sat before Judge Dennis Doyle for a hearing to determine if probable cause existed to move forward to trial.

Randolph County State’s Attorney Jeremy Walker and Lafore defense attorney Justin Kuehn questioned Randolph County Sheriff’s Deputy Donald Krull for about 45 minutes before Doyle determined there was sufficient cause for the charges.

The judge denied Walker’s request, however, to raise Lafore’s bond from $50,000 to $75,000. Lafore remains free on bond. 

On the stand, Krull set the scene leading up to the stabbing as an evening of arguments, warnings and general threats spread primarily via text messages among Sesto, Lafore, Lafore’s girlfriend Larissa Wiegard, Wiegard’s friend Katelyn Merlenbach, Lafore’s former girlfriend Kierston Dingwell, and Sesto’s friends and mutual acquaintances Anthony Krajca and Megan Grapperhaus.

According to witness testimony relayed in court by Krull, Wiegard and Lafore were arguing over text messages sent between Lafore and his ex-girlfriend as Wiegard drove along Huntfield Road from Karban’s Knotty Pines tavern in Paderborn. 

“Mr. Lafore put the car in park and wouldn’t allow her to drive,” Krull testified. “(Wiegard) called Mr. Sesto on her cell and requested he come to Huntfield Road and get him out of her car.” 

Sesto got a ride to the Paderborn tavern from his friend, Tina Martino. There, he met up with Krajca, Merlenbach and Grapperhaus, and they drove together to where Wiegard and Sesto were stopped along Huntfield Road.

Wiegard told Krull that Lafore said, “If Adam was going to come beat his ass, Kodi was going to stab him.”

Wiegard also called Merlenbach, who was driving Sesto to meet her, to say that Lafore had a knife, according to Krull’s testimony.

Once Sesto, Merlenbach, Grapperhaus and Krajca arrived, Merlenbach got out of her car and walked up to Wiegard’s car to speak with Wiegard. At that point, Merlenbach said Lafore exited the car and gave her “an aggressive look.” She told Krull she couldn’t see the entire exchange between Sesto and Lafore, but she thought Lafore punched Sesto until she heard Sesto say, “You stabbed me.”

Merlenbach put Sesto in her car and rushed him to Red Bud Regional Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. 

An autopsy conducted by Dr. Kamal Sabharwal revealed seven centimeters of Lafore’s knife entered Sesto’s chest and perforated the left ventricle of his heart, Krull testified.

Grapperhaus gave Lafore a ride to Casey’s in Red Bud. From there, he got a ride to his residence in Waterloo. He was taken into custody by Waterloo police early Jan. 7 and transported to the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department for questioning.

Much of Lafore’s story aligned with that of the witnesses. He told officers, though, that when Wiegard called Sesto for help, he heard Sesto say he was going to shoot him.

Lafore also said Sesto lunged at him and fell onto the knife Lafore held. 

“He said he gave the knife to a guy in the car, who threw it into a field,” Krull said. “Krajic eventually admitted to taking the knife and throwing it in a field.”   

The knife, which had a 3.5-inch blade, was later recovered from a field by the sheriff’s department.

Lafore was arrested and charged initially with involuntary manslaughter. A charge of second degree murder was added later. 

A trial date has not yet been set.

Friends and family of Sesto turned out in force for Tuesday’s hearing, many wearing shirts with Sesto’s photo on the front and the words “Justice For Adam” on the back.

The Facebook page “Justice for Adam,” created by friends and family of Sesto, currently has more than 1,300 followers.

(Corey Saathoff contributed information to this report)

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