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Anita Alvarez
Cook County State's Attorney
Communications Department
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 603-3423


January 17, 2014

Prosecutors Secure Natural Life Sentence For
Deadly Arson At Chicago Convenience Store

A Chicago gang member has been sentenced to Natural Life in prison for his role in setting a blaze at a convenience store that left two employees dead, according to the Office of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Eric Brocks, 31, was previously convicted of First Degree Murder for setting a fire at Mike & Sons Food and Liquors on the Near West Side in November of 2000 in an attempt to collect insurance money.

According to prosecutors, Brocks and an uncharged co-offender were driven to the store by a third man, Johnny Simms on the morning of November 25, 2000.  Once they arrived, Brocks, armed with a bucket full of gasoline, donned a ski mask and walked into the crowded store.  He then proceeded to douse a potato chip rack and the area near the exit and lit a match, started the fire, and fled through the front door.

With the flames blocking the front exit, trapped customers and employees rushed to the back of the store and escaped using a back door.  However, Annie Reed, 37, who was an employee of the store, realized that her co-worker Hafari Smith, 25, was on the second floor of the building.  In the panic, she rushed upstairs and attempted to save her friend. 

Both women’s bodies were found in a small office on the second level.  Investigators concluded that they died of carbon monoxide poisoning from smoke inhalation. 

The case remained unsloved until 2006 when police developed information that led to the arrest of Sims and Brocks.  Simms, who testified against Brocks at a jury trial in December, pled guilty to Aggravated Arson and is currently awaiting sentencing.

State’s Attorney Alvarez thanked Assistant State’s Attorneys Ethan Holland and Mary Lacy for their work on this case.


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