String of Southern Illinois Armed Robberies Likely Connected

String of Southern Illinois Armed Robberies Likely Connected
By: Crystall Britt
BENTON, IL --A wild string of robberies across two Southern Illinois counties lands one man behind bars, and another in a hospital bed. Police believe at least one of the men might be responsible for robbing several women at gunpoint at a Goreville church Tuesday night.  Then, just hours later two suspects robbed the Farm Fresh store in Benton, Illinois. It didn't end well for either man.
The Suspects are 22-year old Mark Combs and 22-year old Jeffery McElyea, both of West Frankfurt, IL. Police say they know the two friends very well. Now, they both face numerous charges, that's if one of them survives what appears to be a self-inflicted gun shot wound.
It all started Tuesday night as a group of women at the Busby Chapel Freewill Baptist Church were robbed at gunpoint. A suspect reportedly got away with several purses. Then about 14 hours later, in Benton, Illinois, a worker at the Farm Fresh was also robbed at gunpoint.  Two suspects took off with some cash in a stolen white pick-up. "He was obviously in a hurry", said John Willis. He runs a business across the street from the farm fresh. "It causes you to stop and consider what you would do if you were place in the same type of situation."
Deputies pursued the truck at high speeds through town. The Benton Police Chief says, "At some point during the pursuit the truck slowed down enough for the passenger to exit the vehicle and basically gave himself up", Chief Mike O'Neill. That left Jeffery McElyea at the wheel. Police say he shot at deputies before crashing the truck on Summer Road south of Benton. Neighbors say... "I had just walked back in the house and heard a thud, sounded like a gun shot", said William Rankin. McElyea reportedly shot himself in the head. Rankin said,
"Then they took him from the vehicle and put him on the stretcher and put him in the ambulance that's how I knew he was still moving cause he moved his head side to side and moved his hands."
McElyea was airlifted to a hospital in Cape Girardeau. No official word on his condition, but officers tell us it's not looking good. His accomplice Mark Combs is in the Franklin County jail.