MADISON COUNTY, Ill. – A Madison County, Illinois couple’s intervention in a murder along a busy highway in Pontoon Beach ultimately led to a conviction last week.
On the afternoon of Feb. 21, 2023, drivers on Illinois 111 saw a woman running terror along the highway and trying to hide. Most passersby did nothing, except Stacy and Steven O’Dell.
“No one stopped. I couldn’t believe no one would stop, because I mean, obviously, there was something horrible going on,” Stacy said.
Stacy had just started her day driving a truck on the highway near Bel Air Drive. She saw a woman running from a pickup.
“…just zig-zagging back and forth, and I just couldn’t believe it. I mean, it was obvious he was trying to run her over,” she said.
Stacy said the woman, “…had this look of terror in her eyes.”
She radioed her husband, Steven, who had also just started his truck driving shift.
“I didn’t think he would do what he did,” Steven said. “I really didn’t.”
Steven pulled up to where the woman was hiding behind a tree and kept his eye on the man in the truck.
“I could hear his engine – vroom! She looked back and started trying to climb up in (my cab) and I seen her eyes and as soon as we made eye contact, she had a look on her like (terror),” he said. “…and he just smashed her into the side—into the door—and I’ll never forget the wreck sound.”
The victim’s leg was severed in the crash. Steven used a radio cord as a makeshift tourniquet.
“I told her, ma’am, I’m a Marine. You’re losing too much blood. I need to apply pressure to stop your bleeding and she said, ‘Yes, I have children. I don’t want to die yet,’” he said.
The suspect took off, but Steven got his name from the victim as he was trying to keep her alive and on the phone with 911 dispatchers.
“I made sure she spelled it, and I was like, ‘Was that your boyfriend or your husband?’ And she’s like, ‘It’s my boyfriend,’ and I said, ‘What’s his name?’ and she said it again – ‘Richard Mayor,’ and then she spelled it.”
The victim, 46-year-old Lisa Dunnavant-Polach, died at the hospital. Police caught the 60-year-old suspect a short time later.
On June 1, a jury convicted Mayor of first-degree murder.
“If they hadn’t stopped, who knows if this case would have been brought to trial,” Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine said.
Haine said the O’Dells’ intervention secured justice and comforted the victim.
“They made the last moments of Lisa’s life, at least they were presenting a caring and concerned face, and someone trying to help her, even though she was dying,” he said. “So, they are to be commended.”
Yet Steven O’Dell remains haunted.
“I think about it all the time. If I would have pulled the truck up different or … I’m one of them guys who beat themselves up constantly,” he said.
The couple says the find strength knowing they were meant to be there.
“So proud. That’s why I sent him, because I knew he could do all he would do,” Stacy said.