18 year old killer sentenced years later to natural life for double Illinois murders
DECATUR – A 17-year-old man received a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to first degree murder in the Aug. 2009 stomping death of a 61-year-old man. Branden J. White, who has been held in custody since his arrest on Sept. 3, 2009, was sentenced for his role in the beating of Jerry Newingham, who was killed in Aug. 2009 when a group of teens attacked him and stomped on his head. White will serve 100 percent of his sentence, according to sentencing guidelines for murder convictions. He will be eligible for parole in 2029. Four of the other defendants are scheduled to be tried on June 27. Those defendants – who will range in age from 15 to 18 years old on that date – will all be tried as adults. One of the six defendants charged with first degree murder – who prosecutors believe did not physically take part in the attack – is expected to testify as a witness for the prosecution. White appeared in the courtroom of Associate Judge Timothy Steadman Monday morning, accompanied by his attorney, Macon County Assistant Public Defender Monica Hawkins. Family members of Jerry Newingham were in the courtroom during the hearing. Under questioning from Assistant State’s Attorney Nichole Owens, White said he was present at the attack on Newhingham, which occurred at about 4 p.m. Aug. 24, on the 500 block of West Sawyer Street. White said he observed Deonta Johnson, Elliott Murphy and Fredrick Rhone attack the victim. He also saw Murphy stomping on the victim’s head. White said he saw that the victim was badly injured and not moving at the time of the attack. He later heard Murphy bragging about stomping on the victim’s head. After the incident, White said he discarded the shirt he was wearing, a brightly colored polo shirt that was easily recognizable, in order to avoid being recognized by witnesses.White also admitted that he was present at the robbery and attack of Kevin Wilson, 46, which occurred about 70 minutes later in Garfield Park. Wilson was seriously injured, but has recovered. He has no memory of the attack. White said he saw Murphy jump on Wilson’s head with both feet. He later saw Murphy wiping blood off his shoes with a towel. He said Deonta Johnson and the Rhone brothers, Fredrick and Dedrick, all took part in Wilson’s beating. White observed that Wilson was badly injured and not moving during and after the attack. White testified that the teens were all smoking marijuana before and after the attack. White will begin serving his sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections immediately.
Joseph Pace and Thomas Olds
Read and watch video regarding the early release of these Illinois teen killers and the heartbreaking impact on the victims family.
The victims families of this killer were shocked to find this lifer trolling for girlfriends on the internet. How can this be legal, to retraumatize victims in this way?
Peter Saunders, age 16, sexually assaulted and bludgeoned and stabbed to death an elderly woman, Elisa Totoni in Chicago in 1983. He made a full statement implicating himself. He was convicted for murder, home invasion, armed robbery and attempt rape. He was sentenced to life without parole on the murder conviction and an aggregate consecutive term of 75 years on the remaining convictions. (Source: Illinois Appellate Court decision in People v. Peter Saunders, 235 Ill. App. 3d 661, 601 N.E.2d 1038, 1992 Ill. App. LEXIS 1483, 176 Ill. Dec. 340 (Ill. App. 1s Dist. 1992).
In October 1995, while Saunders was an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, he sent a threatening letter and then a bomb-like device to Federal Judge Blanche Manning. Judge Manning received a letter from Saunders on October 30, 1995, in which, among other things, Saunders threatened to “put a nine millimeter slug right in your head.” A device in a package capable of detonating arrived for Judge Manning at the United States Courthouse in Chicago the next day, October 31, 1995. Saunders admitted to the FBI sending both the letter and the package. He told the FBI he was furious with Judge Manning for affirming his conviction when she had been an Illinois Appellate Court judge and for dismissing a civil suit he had filed in federal court alleging inadequate medical care by the State of Illinois. (Source: U.S.A. v. Peter Saunders, U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, No. 96 CR 584—Rudy Lozano, Judge. Submitted October 30, 1998, Decided February 2, 1999).
Scott Darnell raped and murdered a 12-year-old girl, Victoria Larson, one month after he was released on parole in connection with juvenile court proceedings on another case. The victim’s mother, Dora Larson, sued the parole officer and the Illinois Department of Corrections for failing to properly supervise and control Darnell. She lost. (Source: Larson v. Darnell, 113 Ill. App. 3d 975, 448 N.E.2d 249, 1983 Ill. App. LEXIS 1678, 69 Ill. Dec. 789 (Ill. App. 3rd Dist. 1983).
Curtis Croft was one of three young men who raped 16-year-old Kim Boyd at Croft’s home in Chicago in 1986. When the gang-rape was over, the men debated what to do with the victim. Miss Boyd was blindfolded with a brown rag that belonged to Croft, laid down in an alley, and run over five times with a car in which Croft was a passenger. One of the others then finished Ms. Boyd off with a knife. Coronor Dr. Mitre Kalelkar testified at trial that Ms. Boyd suffered 40 stab wounds, a broken thigh bone, several fractured ribs, and “skin slippage” on her face which could have been caused by coming into contact with the hot metal underside of a car. Croft was sentenced concurrently to natural life for murder, 45 years for aggravated criminal sexual assault and 10 years for aggravated kidnapping. (Source: People v. Croft, 211 Ill. App. 3d 496, 570 N.E.2d 507, 1991 Ill. App. LEXIS 369, 156 Ill. Dec. 31 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 1991)
This is a quote from the “Overview” section of the legal opinion in People v. Johnny Freeman, 182 Ill. App. 3d 731, 538 N.E.2d 681, 1989 Ill. App. LEXIS 538, 131 Ill. Dec. 306 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 1989):
“Defendant took a five-year-old girl from the fifth floor to a fourteenth floor apartment [of Henry Horner Homes in Chicago]. After sexually assaulting the girl, he shoved her out of a window. When the girl grabbed the edge of the window and screamed for her mother, defendant shoved her a second time and she fell to her death. Defendant was convicted of criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping and murder. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, a consecutive sentence of 60 years, and another consecutive sentence of 15 years.”
While serving a natural life sentence in Pontiac Correctional Center for murders he committed as a juvenile, Griffith killed again: he stabbed a fellow inmate, James Jones, to death with a shank in 1990. (Source: People v. Evan Griffith, 158 Ill. 2d 476, 634 N.E. 2d 1069, 1994 Ill. App. LEXIS 62, 199 Ill. Dec. 715 (Illinois Supreme Court 1994)
Griffith’s juvenile murder was commited when he was 16 years old. On May 11, 1985, in Chicago, he used a hammer, scissors, and two knives to kill Leroi Shanks. (Source: People v. Evan Griffith, 334 Ill. App. 3d 98, 777 N.E.2d 459, 2002 Ill. App. LEXIS 815, 267 Ill. Dec. 656 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 2002).
Wayne Antusas ordered the shooting that killed two eighth-grade girls, Helena Martin and Carrie Hovel, on Dec. 14, 1995, when they were sitting across from their school, Nathan Hale Elementary at 6100 S. Melvina Avenue in Chicago.
For this case information we are reprinting below testimony submitted to the Illinois Legislature by one of the victims’ sisters. Statement of Jeanne Bishop to the Juvenile Justice Reform Committee. March 14, 2007:
“My name is Jeanne Bishop, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have my testimony presented to this committee. I apologize for not being present; I learned of this hearing too late to change a longstanding out of town meeting. What you are considering here today is of such critical importance that I feel compelled to address you in the only way I can. I was told—and perhaps you were, too– that House Bill 1695 was meant to address the issue of 13, 14 and 15-year-olds being given mandatory sentences of life without parole. I learned only a few days ago that the truth is that no one who committed a crime at age 13 is serving that sentence in Illinois. Of 14-year-olds, only four are serving that sentence. Of 15-year-olds, only eleven are serving that sentence. The remaining cases involve inmates who were 16 and 17 years old when they committed their crimes. Thirty people serving a life sentence in Illinois were 16, and 58 were 17, the age of legal adulthood.
That means that the clear majority of people serving natural life sentences which would be retroactively altered by this bill were adults when they received their sentences. And you will be told that there are some inmates serving natural life sentences who were disadvantaged, abused, who had bad childhoods in bad neighborhoods with bad schools, who came from broken homes, who received shoddy legal representation.
I have a different story to tell you. It is a horror story, a true one, about David Biro, who slaughtered three of my family members in 1990, when he was only one month shy of his 17th birthday. Mr. Biro was not disadvantaged: he grew up in the best neighborhoods, living in a nearly million-dollar home in Winnetka. He had the best schools: he was a student at New Trier High School when he murdered my family members. He did not have a broken home: he came from an intact family of a mother, father, sister and brother. He was not abused; rather, he abused others, trying to poison his own family by tainting their milk and shooting at passers-by with a BB gun out of the window of his home. He had the best of legal representation at trial; his lawyers were the respected defense attorneys Robert Gevirtz and Dennis Born. Indeed, the Illinois Appellate Court described the trial which Mr. Biro received the fairest that our jurisprudence could offer any defendant.
Mr. Biro apparently was dissatisfied with his quiet suburban life of safe streets, clean parks, and good schools. He aspired to be a serial killer. He started, as I mentioned before, with his own family and with random bystanders, with small weapons like BB pellets.
That wasn’t thrill enough for him. So he used his ingenuity to forge the application for an Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification Card, which would entitle him to buy an arsenal of real weapons. When his attempt was successful and his mother found out about it, she sent the FOID card to a lawyer. When Mr. Biro learned that the lawyer had his FOID card, he broke into the law office by removing the hinges from the doors, and, while searching for the FOID card, found a .357 Magnum, speed loaders and bullets in an unlocked drawer. He had found what he wanted.
Two days later, he used that gun to execute in cold blood my younger sister Nancy, the three-month-old baby she was carrying in her womb, and her husband Richard. Mr. Biro planned the murder carefully. He brought a glass cutter to their home, quietly cutting the glass of a sliding glass door rather than breaking it out and causing a sound which might alert neighbors. He positioned a chair in the middle of the ground floor of my sister’s home so that he could see every entrance. Then he sat in the chair and waited for her to come home.
When she and her husband walked through their front door, he pointed the gun at them, handcuffed my brother-in-law with cuffs he had brought for the occasion, and terrorized them. A neighbor said she heard my sister begging Mr. Biro, “No, not again!”
My sister offered him all the money she had with her, $500 in cash from the paycheck she had just cashed, to leave them unharmed. He threw the money on the ground and told her that wasn’t why he had come. He forced them into the basement. He shot my brother-in-law once in the back of the head, execution-style. Then he turned the gun on my sister. She told him she was pregnant and begged for the life of her baby. He fired into her abdomen and side and left her to bleed to death. She tried desperately to survive, dragging her body to the basement stairs, which she was too weak to climb. She tried banging on a metal shelf to call for help. No help came. Finally, when she must have known she was dying, she dragged herself over to her husband’s lifeless body and drew in her own blood a heart and the letter “u.” Love you. It was how Nancy had signed her letters to her husband over the years. Then she died beside him.
Mr. Biro attended my sister’s funeral, presumably to enjoy the spectacle of our grief. He kept a trophy notebook about the killings, with press clippings and his own poems about killing my family members, in which he compared himself to the Biblical character of Cain, who kills his brother, Abel. Mr. Biro would go to school and start to speculate with other students about who might have killed this innocent young couple: the Mafia? Terrorists? At the end of the conversation, he would tell his classmates with a smile, “Actually, I did it.” They would laugh off his suggestion as creepy and ridiculous.
Finally, Mr. Biro apparently got tired of not having anyone who could truly appreciate his genius. He told a close friend, in detail, about killing my family members. And he told of a plan to kill again. The next victim was to be a bank guard in Winnetka. Mr. Biro had already started the process of engineering a break-in at the bank. His plan was to enter the bank at night, when no one was on duty, take some money, wait till a guard arrived in the morning, kill the guard, and leave a note. The note would say something to the effect of: “Ha ha, I didn’t have to kill the guard to take the money. I just killed him because I wanted to.”
And this is the hallmark of David Biro. He wants us to understand that he is killing not for a particular reason, but for no reason. He wanted to be sure that his break-in at my sister’s home wasn’t misread as a burglary gone bad: that’s why he left all the money on the floor. It was meant to be a message, as clear as the message he intended to leave at the bank.
And the message is this: I want you dead. I want you dead for no reason other than that I want to kill. It is not merely senseless killing; it is killing Mr. Biro means us to see and understand as senseless. Fortunately, the friend turned in Mr. Biro before he could take another innocent human life. I have no doubt that, were he released from prison by this irresponsible bill, he would take up where he left off and kill again.
And if that happens, I fear less for my family members, for my husband and two small sons, than for your family members. Because it would make perfect sense for Mr. Biro to come and find me and finish the job of killing my family if he were let out of prison. It would make no sense for him to kill your family. And Mr. Biro is the master of the truly senseless killing.
Mr. Biro not only received a mandatory sentence of life without parole for the double homicide and home invasion. He also received, from Judge Shelvin Singer, one of our most respected jurists, a discretionary sentence of life without parole for the intentional killing of an unborn child.
Judge Singer could have sentenced Mr. Biro to a term of years, but he chose not to. And in his remarks from the bench at sentencing, Judge Singer noted what I did before you here today. That Mr. Biro had every advantage. That he had grown up not with violence, but with peace and security. That he possessed intelligence which he had turned to evil. That he had acted in a calculated manner which was sophisticated far beyond his years. That the killing was exceptionally brutal and heinous.
Enough of my horror story. My question is this: why is this horror story the only one you will hear today from victims? Why are you not hearing from the hundreds and hundreds of other family members of the many other victims?
The answer is simple: because they were never even notified of the bill’s existence. They were never notified about this hearing. (We have heard it said, without any confirmation, by one of the bill’s proponents that perhaps one family has been told, but he and other of the bill’s backers concede that they have notified no other victim). I found out about the bill by an accident of fate, not by design of those who advocate the wholesale reintroduction of parole to killers who were never supposed to be paroled.
How many other horror stories from victims might you hear today if they knew this hearing was taking place? Did no one think those victims’ families deserved to be told that their loved ones’ killers might walk the streets again unless they were here today to raise their voices against it? Does anyone here really believe that all those victims chose to remain silent in the face of a bill which would annually threaten them with release of their loved ones’ murderer?
The stench of injustice surely must permeate this room sufficiently for you to smell it. It is the rank smell of unfairness, of the lack of the most basic consideration for innocent people who have suffered enough.
This bill was badly conceived, drafted by a criminal defense lawyer with no input from victims. It was introduced without knowledge of victims or even of some of the respected experts on juvenile justice who have been painstakingly studying this issue. This bill does not deserve your vote. The inquiry into this issue can and will go on, but this deeply flawed bill should end here.
People Magazine story on David Biro: November 12, 1990
David Biro Said He Was a Killer
Nancy and Richard Langert of Winnetka, Ill., a prosperous Chicago suburb, were an affable, hardworking couple whose lives seemed filled with promise. Nancy, 25, was a corporate lawyer’s daughter from Winnetka, who sang in the church choir and performed in community theater. Richard, 30, a burly former Chicago Catholic high school athlete, delighted in hosting parties for family and friends. Both had good jobs at Gloria Jean’s Coffee Bean Corp., a chain of gourmet coffee retailers based in Arlington Heights, Ill. Richard supervised production; Nancy worked in the franchise sales department. After three years of marriage, they were expecting their first baby and preparing to move into a new house closer to their work. “We have everything going for us,” Nancy told friends in January. “This is going to be our year.”
But when they returned home from a family dinner celebrating Nancy’s father’s birthday on a clear moonlit Saturday night last April, an intruder surprised them. The next day the Langerts failed to show up at church or answer their phone. At 4 P.M. Nancy’s father went to the town house and discovered their bodies lying faceup in the basement. Richard had been handcuffed and shot in the back of the head. Nancy had been shot in the elbow, side and stomach. With her finger, she had tried to scrawl a message in blood. At first, rumors circulated that the letters spelled IRA. Later, police concluded that the message was a heart next to the letter U.
Though the intruder had rifled Nancy’s purse and torn through the boxes the Langerts had packed for their move, nothing appeared to have been taken. The $500 Nancy had from a paycheck cashed the previous day was strewn on the living room floor, leading police to rule out burglary. They followed hunches that went nowhere: They hunted in vain for clues of marital infidelities, unpaid debts and cocaine smuggling at the coffee company warehouse. One theory was that the murders might have been committed by a vengeful client of Nancy’s father. Another was that Irish terrorists had retaliated against Nancy’s sister, an attorney who monitored human rights abuses in Northern Ireland, a supposition the family considers preposterous. “What was so outrageous about the investigation was that these kids were as straight-arrow as they come,” says a family friend. “All the wild speculation only added to the grief and suffering of everyone who loved them.”
It seemed for a time that the killer might never be found. For six months the FBI and police from seven Chicago suburbs had run a maze of dead-end trails trying to solve the shocking murders. The killings had stunned a community still dazed by the tragic shooting of six elementary school children two years earlier.
The one place lawmen apparently did not pay enough attention to was the town of Winnetka itself. But at the community’s highly regarded New Trier Township High School, senior David Biro, 17, a lanky honor student known for his biting sarcasm and perverse humor, mockingly bragged to classmates that he had shot the Langerts. Accustomed to Biro’s frequent claims that he was a hired assassin, drug dealer and street-gang member, most of his fellow students did not take him seriously. Finally, however, one of Biro’s schoolmates decided that there was more to the boy’s claims than mere braggadocio. Early last month he told Winnetka police what Biro had been saying. Investigators listened closely, since Biro had mentioned details of the murders that had never been publicly released.
It wasn’t the first time Biro had caught the eye of police. According to friends—all of Biro’s acquaintances cited in this article have insisted on anonymity since they are potential court witnesses—he was admitted to Charter Barclay, a psychiatric hospital in Chicago, three years ago after reportedly trying to poison his parents, brother and sister with tainted milk. Since then he had been stopped by police for a series of minor infractions. When the high school informant told police of Biro’s claims of involvement in the Langert killings, investigators recalled that Biro had been spotted, wearing black clothing, near the murder scene on the night of the slayings.
On Oct. 5, the day after police learned of his boasting, Biro was taken into custody for questioning as he left his parents’ three-story stucco home. After police searches of his bedroom uncovered items, including a glass cutter, handcuffs and a .357 Magnum revolver, that had been stolen from the office of Biro’s former lawyer, the teenager was charged with first-degree murder of Richard Langert and his pregnant wife, Nancy, and the intentional homicide of their unborn child. A .357 Magnum can fire the type of .38-caliber bullets used in the murders, and while law enforcement officials have revealed few details of their investigation, they say they are confident that the .357 Magnum and other items taken from Biro will link him to the murders. Biro is being held at the Cook County jail without bail, awaiting his Nov. 21 arraignment.
Biro’s arrest has bewildered the community and left everyone, including the police, wondering why a child of privilege might have committed such a crime. Drawings and writings recovered from his room have led police to consult with ritual-crime experts to determine whether Biro may have dabbled in destructive occult beliefs. His closest friends wonder if Biro may have been “pushed or dared” into committing a crime as a street-gang initiation—or whether he might have killed the Langerts at the behest of someone else.
Some classmates say Biro was driven, as one acquaintance put it, “to test his limits.” A red notebook, found in his room by police, contained underlined news articles about the murders, including a magazine story in which an attorney for Nancy Langert’s sister observed, “I bet if they ever do catch the culprit it will turn out to be some local teenager.” Says one girl: “If [Biro] did do it, it’s because he wanted to commit the perfect crime. Dave viewed everything as an intellectual challenge, and he may have been too smart for his own good.”
One question remains: Why the Langerts? Though Biro’s parents were casually acquainted with Nancy Langert’s parents, police admit they are puzzled about the nature of the relationship—if any—between Biro and his alleged victims. Although the teenager accompanied his mother to the Langerts’ funeral, police say there is no evidence he knew them before the night that their paths may have fatally crossed.
While Nancy and Richard Langert appeared to be living their dream, David Biro was decidedly less content. The son of a successful public relations executive, David, the youngest of three children, was an intelligent, inquisitive youth who suffered the painful rejection of classmates. In eighth grade, he resorted to wearing a fake cast on his arm to ward off the attacks of other students who chased him after school. He, in turn, began harassing neighborhood children with urine-filled balloons and BB guns. “They thought he was weird, so he kept up the image,” says a former classmate.
After his hospital stay, Biro admitted to friends he felt even more like an outcast. As a defense against stinging remarks that he was “psycho” and “crazy,” he cultivated the role of a tough guy. He studied martial arts, had his arms tattooed, flashed street-gang hand signs and dressed in a long black coat that he believed made him look like a gangster.
Professing dislike for the “preppie” crowd that dominated New Trier, he sought companionship from an older group of friends in the city, including some he claimed to have met while he was hospitalized. Yet he also ran for class president (he lost), joined the high school cross-country team and began scouting colleges. “No one could ever figure Dave out,” says a fellow student. “Everyone knew who he was, but no one really knew him.”
Perhaps Biro didn’t either. Observes a friend: “He was always looking for answers for the meaning of things, like who God is and who the devil is.” Violence and power seemed to fascinate him. He talked about the “insane genius” of Charles Manson and Hitler, and he was intrigued by movie villains and assassins, often mimicking the characters. One of his favorites was the psychopathic hit man played by actor James Woods in the film Best Seller. Acting the part one day, Biro demonstrated to a companion that he could withstand pain when he burned his palm with a cigarette. Says a friend, “He said he wanted to be the ultimate assassin.” When Biro goes to trial, Winnetka may finally learn whether that ambition became more than a fantasy.
Angelo Cobbins, Sharee Musgray
2 teenagers charged as adults in killing Jan 9, 2011Two teenage boys were charged as adults in the robbery and murder of a 59 year-old man in a Chicago Near West Side playlot. Angelo Cobbins, 17, (pictured above) of the 1300 block of West Roosevelt, and Sharee Musgray, 15, of the 1300 block of South Throop, were charged with first-degree murder in Tuesday’s beating death of Benjamin West, of the 1200 block of North Austin. Cobbins was ordered held on $500,000 bail Thursday, and Musgray was ordered held on $1 million bond Saturday. Police said the teens robbed West on Tuesday, beat him and left him in a playlot in the 1300 block of West Hastings near Fosco Park. West was found lying on the ground at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and was later pronounced dead. An autopsy determined he died of blunt head trauma. Video from Chicago Housing Authority cameras in the area showed a vehicle circling the scene shortly after the beating, police said. Detectives found the vehicle, which led them to Cobbins, police said. Musgray was arrested Thursday, police said.
The Associated Press Jan 2011
CHICAGO—A Chicago teenager who pleaded guilty Friday to participating in the beating death of a high school honor student that was caught on video was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Eric Carson, 17, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the 2009 death of 15-year-old Derrion Albert. Carson, who was 16 at the time. Carson was captured on videotape hitting Albert in the back of the head with a large board. The video shows that after collapsing, Albert was beaten and stomped by several other teens. Carson is the third person convicted in connection with the September 2009 attack. A 15-year-old, who was tried as a juvenile, was convicted in December of first-degree murder in Albert’s death and sentenced to a juvenile detention center until his 21st birthday. Silvonus Shannon, 20, was convicted earlier this month of first-degree murder and faces a sentence of up to 60 years in prison when he returns to court Feb. 14. Two others, Eugene Riley and Lapoleon Colbert, still face charges in the attack that drew international attention when the video of the street brawl was posted online. Assistant Public Defender Lorne Gorelick, who represented Carson, said he and his client sat down with prosecutors to discuss a plea deal in early January. Under the agreement, Carson must serve 100 percent of his sentence. He will receive credit for the nearly 18 months he was being held in Cook County Jail awaiting trial. The Chicago Tribune reports Carson wept as he said goodbye to his family after the sentence. As he used his khaki, jail-issued shirt to wipe tears from his face, Judge Nicholas Ford wished Carson luck. Dozens of relatives and friends of Carson crowded the courtroom. Several cried loudly as the hearing came to a close, and others shouted “No!” while one woman yelled, “26 years? That’s crazy!” Members of Albert’s family also attended the hearing. However, they left before the emotional outbursts. Both families refused to comment afterward. The attack on Albert marked the most vivid example of the violence that in a six-month period of 2009 claimed the lives of more than 20 Chicago public school students. It also prompted President Barack Obama to dispatch top Cabinet officials to Chicago to discuss ways to quell the violence.
Fabian is serving a 45 year sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections for the murder of Lakesha Walker. He was 16 years old when he murdered her.
At trial, the State published defendant’s written statement, which was taken on September 5, 1998. Defendant’s mother was present while defendant’s written statement was taken. That written statement provided the following account of events. On the morning of September 4, 1998, defendant went to Lincoln Park High School, where he was a sophomore. He was wearing a red and blue striped shirt and black pants. He brought an automatic handgun with him to school. The gun was black and contained seven rounds. The gun had been hidden outside his house.
When defendant left school that day, he was with Michael Jones, Aaron Frelix, Grayland Holmes, and Sedrick Pace. Defendant is a member of the P-Stones gang. As defendant and his friends walked on the east side of Larrabee, a group of Gangster Disciple gang members (G.D.s) were walking on the west side of the street. Defendant saw approximately nine G.D.s and five girls walking behind them. The G.D.s were “flashing their gang signs” and yelling “Stone killer,” which is a term of disrespect to defendant’s gang. Defendant did not see any guns, knives, or any other weapons with any of the G.D.s or the girls. The G.D.s were “throwing up the ‘forks’ ” and “throwing down” defendant’s gang sign.
Defendant’s statement to police further provided:
“Fabian states when they reached Blackhawk, he started to walk east. Fabian states he then turned around and ran back to the corner. Fabian states he then pulled out the gun. Fabian states he pointed the gun at the group and then fired seven (7) shots. Fabian states when he started firing, the group started running. Fabian states after he fired the gun, he put it back into his pocket and ran.”
Defendant ran to his apartment, changed his clothes, and left the apartment. He left the clothes that he wore to school on the floor in his room. He put the gun in his right pocket.
Outside, someone told defendant that the police were looking for him. He went to the Laundromat for about five minutes. Defendant then saw his mother and police officers standing outside. Defendant went to “Sunshine’s” house. While at Sunshine’s house, defendant spoke to Dennis Booth on the telephone. Booth picked up defendant on Hudson Street and drove him to Clybourn and Diversey. Defendant threw the gun into the river.
At trial, Theresa Simmons testified that she and Lakesha Walker, the victim, were walking north on Larrabee Street with a group that included five or six boys and three girls. She saw defendant walking in the same direction on the opposite side of the street with a group that included four boys. Theresa testified that the two groups were walking from school on opposite sides of the street for 20 to 25 minutes before the shooting occurred. She noted that the boys walking with her were “throwing up” gang signs and demonstrating their gang affiliation. She could see defendant in the other group across the street “until he cut, like out up between Orchard and then cut back through the alley.” When he reappeared, Theresa saw defendant pull out a gun. When defendant pulled the gun out, the rest of his group “sort of walked off” except for the “dark skinned boy.” She and the victim began running. Theresa heard six or seven shots fired.
On cross-examination, Theresa stated that the five or six boys that she was walking with starting making comments to the boys across the street “saying they should beat them punk niggers.” She stated that the boys with her were not making hand gestures or “throwing up the gang sign, nothing like that. They was just talking.” Contrary to her direct examination testimony, Simmons testified that neither group of boys represented their gangs or used gang words.
Tasha Simmons testified that on September 4, 1998, at about 3:15 p.m., she and a friend were walking north on the west side of Larrabee near Near North High School. The west side of Larrabee is G.D. territory. As they walked, four boys and seven girls, including the victim, were walking toward them. The victim is Tasha Simmons’ cousin. Tasha came within 12 to 15 feet of the group walking toward her. Defendant was on the other side of Larrabee, standing on the corner across the street. Tasha saw him “throwing down the fork.” The “fork” is the G.D.s gang sign and “throwing it down” means “G.D. killer.” After defendant threw down the fork two or three times, he pulled out a black gun from his right side and pointed it toward the group that the victim was walking in. Tasha did not see anyone else with a gun. The groups started running. Tasha saw somebody fall as she ran. She saw the victim’s group for four or five minutes before she heard shots fired. During this time, she never heard the G.D.s say anything to the people across the street.
Sedrick Pace testified that on September 4, 1998, at about 3:15 p.m., he was walking home from school with three classmates, including defendant. They were walking on Orchard toward Larrabee. He saw about nine people across the street. Once Pace and his friends reached the corner of Blackhawk and Larrabee, defendant went into the street about 8 to 10 feet. Pace then saw defendant argue for a while and then he “[d]ropped the fork.” The boys on the other side started to walk over, but they never walked into the street. Defendant pulled out a black gun from his right pocket and fired six or seven times. The people on the other side of the street scattered. Sedrick did not see a weapon in anyone else’s hands. On cross-examination, Pace testified that the other group “threw down a five,” which meant disrespect to defendant’s gang. He also heard someone say to defendant and his friends, “We are going to beat your ass.” Pace heard one of the girls with the G.D.s across the street say, “[I]t is only a couple of them, why don’t y’all go over there and beat them up?”
Detective Brian Killacky testified that on September 4, 1998, at approximately 3:50 p.m., he received a call indicating that a girl had been shot on the property of Near North High School. Killacky proceeded to the hospital and spoke to the physician attending to the victim. The doctor informed the detective that the victim died from the gunshot wound. Killacky then went to the intersection of Blackhawk and Larrabee. At the scene, he observed six bullet casings lying on the ground, which indicated to him that six shots had been fired from a semi-automatic gun. At the station, Killacky interviewed several witnesses to the shooting. Theresa Simmons was interviewed and she identified defendant as the shooter.
Melissa Rapoza testified that she was traveling westbound on Blackhawk at about 3:30 p.m. on September 4, 1998. She stated that as she attempted to turn down an alley she “heard two pops” coming from the west that she thought to be gunfire. As she slowed her vehicle, she “saw a young man walking, eventually running with his arm pointing west” in front of her car. Rapoza immediately stopped. She noticed “like a sulfur smell” in the air. She saw a handgun in the young man’s hand. She could see his face. Rapoza saw him put the gun into the right front pocket of his pants. She recalled that he was wearing dark pants, navy to black in color, and he was wearing a shirt with wide, horizontal red and dark stripes. Days after the incident, Rapoza identified the photograph of the young man she saw with the handgun. In court, Rapoza identified defendant as the person that she saw holding the handgun.
Columbo seeks parole 35 years after murders
Opponents fight release of woman convicted of killing her parents and brother
March 2, 2011
The sleepy neighborhood in Elk Grove Village still attracts the occasional visitor seeking a glimpse of where one of the northwest suburbs’ grisliest and most notorious crimes took place. The home on Brantwood Avenue has been occupied since 1980 by Rosa Gomez and her family. She said she doesn’t think or talk much about the murders, which occurred four years before she moved in, but acknowledges that if she’d known about them beforehand, she might never have bought the place. For the few neighbors who were there at the time and remain, the memories are distant, but one sentiment seems universal: No one wants to see Patricia Columbo back in the area again. “It was just so appalling. … You did feel quite uneasy. People felt creepy about it for quite a while,” said Beverly Pittelko, who lived a couple of streets away at the time. Columbo, who was 19 at the time of the 1976 murders, was convicted along with her boyfriend, Frank DeLuca, of shooting her parents, Mary and Frank Columbo, slitting Mary Columbo’s throat and stabbing Patricia’s 13-year-old brother, Michael, dozens of times. DeLuca and Patricia Columbo were each sentenced to 200 to 300 years in prison, but the two are up again for parole in May — 35 years after the killings. Columbo has a preliminary parole hearing Thursday. Though Columbo has been up at least 15 times before, most recently in 2008, she has won support from the same two members of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board at her last three attempts at parole. This spring, Columbo will appear before four new board members, though she would need eight votes to win parole. One person intent on making sure that never happens is Mundelein Police Chief Raymond Rose. Not yet 30 when he became the lead investigator on the case as a member of the Elk Grove Village police force, Rose said he will fight against parole for Columbo “until one of us is dead.” “When you see people who’ve been murdered, what makes this so grisly is that it’s an entire family,” said Rose, who plans to travel downstate to Dwight Correctional Center to testify against Columbo’s parole after having done the same at DeLuca’s preliminary hearing at Logan Correctional Center last month. “When you think about that … you can’t forget,” Rose said. “It’s like we’re speaking on behalf of the family because they’re not here to talk for themselves.” Neither of the two Prisoner Review Board members who have voted in favor of Columbo’s parole — Geraldine Tyler and former state Rep. Jesse Madison — could be reached for comment. In explaining her first vote for Columbo’s freedom, in 2006, Tyler has said Columbo is “not the same woman” she was when she killed her family and seemed remorseful. DeLuca, now 72, has never received a vote in favor of parole, parole board officials said. Those “yes” votes for Columbo have re-energized Rose to keep up his fight. He said it worries him that Columbo, now 54, might be gaining sympathy because she was so young at the time of the killings and has been portrayed by advocates as a rehabilitated and well-behaved prisoner. “There are people who say, ‘Poor girl’ … (that) she was suckered in. My question is, who groomed who? Frank DeLuca didn’t groom her. She groomed him,” Rose said, calling Columbo “a very hard personality, very cold, calculating, manipulative. … It’s clear to me that this evilness continues.” Algis Baliunas, one of the prosecutors at Columbo’s trial, said that while over the years he has often questioned the purpose of extended prison sentences, in the case of Columbo, he remains adamant that parole should not be granted. Baliunas, who has been in private practice since 1978, recalled that, years ago, he was asked by Columbo’s attorney if he would support her parole petition. “After the trial, I ended up working on the defense side for a number of years, and after seeing many people who were rehabilitated, I could see how in some instances it is a waste of money to keep people in jail,” Baliunas said. “But in Patricia Columbo’s case, there was never any clear-cut motive for her decision to kill her family in such a vicious manner. … She seemed to have an inability to deal with day-to-day situations, so why take the chance?”
And thanks to the Chicago Tribune for this well-articulated editorial opposing her request for parole (3-3-11):
Update May 2011 - Parole was denied by an 8-2 vote by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.