ST. CHARLES COUNTY — For more than four years, Debbie Hanneken waited for the day her son's murder would finally be solved.
On Monday, that day came.
After deliberating for about five hours, a St. Charles County jury convicted Eric Dewayne Winfrey, 39, of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the 2004 killing of Christopher Hanneken, a worker at a St. Charles storage business.
"When they said those words, you couldn't help but melt," Debbie Hanneken said after Monday's guilty verdict.
Winfrey was convicted of fatally shooting and robbing Hanneken on June 2, 2004. A delivery man found Hanneken, 27, in a back room of a Storage USA office on Highway 94 in St. Charles. He was shot in the back of the head, and $395 had been stolen from the cash register.
During the five-day trial, prosecutors questioned more than 70 witnesses in presenting what was largely circumstantial evidence.
Investigators acknowledged they could find no murder weapon or physical evidence at the crime scene, in Winfrey's car or apartment linking him to the killing. Footage from the business's security camera had been stolen.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean Hoag, who tried the case for the St. Charles County prosecutor's office, told the jury Winfrey had plotted to murder Hanneken.
Co-workers, acquaintances and an ex-girlfriend testified to Winfrey's financial troubles and how he obtained a .38-caliber Taurus Model 80 handgun consistent with the one that killed Hanneken.
Witness testimony helped prosecutors establish Hanneken's time of death and Winfrey's whereabouts on the afternoon of the killing. Also, Kevin Covington, 44, a prison inmate who met Winfrey while both were serving time for unrelated convictions, said Winfrey told him about the murder.
Shortly after Hanneken's death, police suspected Winfrey, who shared an apartment with his girlfriend above the storage facility in 2003.
St. Charles Detective Mike Harvey said the killing looked like "an inside job" by someone familiar with the business. Winfrey had helped mop up the office while he was living upstairs.
Winfrey wasn't indicted until August 2007, after his ex-girlfriend, Corener Harris, contacted police and told them she had seen Winfrey with a .38-caliber or .357-caliber handgun a few days before the murder. She said she asked him why he had it, and he answered with something to the effect of "I've got to do what I've got to do."
Witnesses testified to Winfrey's penchant for gambling and his struggle to hold jobs and pay bills.
In closing arguments, John Tucci, Winfrey's attorney, attacked the credibility of the state's witnesses, calling the prosecution's case weak because prosecutors had no evidence linking Winfrey to the crime scene.
After the trial, Tucci said he disagreed with the jury's verdict.
"We litigated this case very vigorously," he said. "We're disappointed in the verdict, but there will be an appeal."
Winfrey shook his head slowly as the guilty verdict was read. His eyes were bloodshot.
Debbie Hanneken embraced Harvey, the St. Charles detective, on her way out of the courtroom. "Good job," she whispered.
Mandi Alexander, 28, the mother of Christopher Hanneken's 3-year-old daughter, Madelynn, said she was grateful to police for their work and thankful the jury returned a guilty verdict.
"Justice was served," she said. "I'm very, very pleased with the verdict."
Sentencing for Winfrey is set for Dec. 5.