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The People v. Dewey





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of DeKalb County; the Hon. CHARLES G. SEIDEL, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Russell Charles Dewey, was indicted by the Winnebago County grand jury for the murder of Susan Brady. A change of venue was sought and the cause was transferred to the circuit court of DeKalb County. A jury found the defendant guilty, and he was sentenced to a term of 20 to 50 years in the penitentiary. This appeal followed.

Susan Brady, an eleven-year-old girl, was last seen alive on December 20, 1965, at approximately 5:30 P.M. She had gone to the home of her girl friend after school and was returning to her home. The friend, Cecelia Burns, had walked part way home with Susan and left her on the south side of School Street, being an east-west street in the city of Rockford, Illinois, where School Street interests Albert Avenue, a north-south street. It was dark when Cecelia started back home in an easterly direction as Susan continued west on the south side of School Street. A witness for the People testified that possibly a few minutes before 6:00 o'clock P.M., he heard screaming out in front of his home and then a car starting fast and spinning its wheels on the street. His home was on the south side of School Street and to the west of Albert Avenue.

The defendant testified that at the approximate time and place in question he was driving his automobile in a westerly direction on School Street when he struck a young girl with the left front of his automobile. He testified that he did not see the child until she was immediately in front of his car. His first thought was to leave the scene because he had no insurance. He drove one-half block, stopped the car and made an inspection to see if any headlights were broken. He looked back and saw nothing. He then started backing the car with the lights off when he felt the rear of his car bump over something. He got out of the car and discovered the child underneath. He placed her in his car with the intention of taking her to a hospital, but then determined that she was dead and decided to dispose of her body.

The defendant stated that he proceeded directly to his home with the body and placed it in a 55-gallon drum type incinerator in his garage and caused it to be thoroughly burned through the night. The next morning he removed all ashes and remains and placed them in a dump at his place of employment.

The defendant lived alone in the home of his grandparents outside the city limits of Rockford during November and December 1965, while they were in Florida. He was 25 years old, unmarried and worked at the J.I. Case Company in Rockford, He owned a 1961 green Cadillac.

Between 6:30 and 7:00 P.M. on December 20, 1965, defendant purchased a gallon can of gasoline and had the tank of his Cadillac filled at a gas station near his grandparents' home. About mid-morning of the next day, defendant was observed at the J.I. Case Company dump throwing some unknown material from his grandfather's pickup truck into the fire. On December 31, 1965, defendant quit his job at J.I. Case Company without prior notice. He headed for Florida in his Cadillac, but in Georgia he had an automobile accident and decided to return to Rockford. He felt that the police in Georgia would be looking for him since he had given them a fictitious insurance policy number. On January 4, 1966, defendant helped his mother and stepfather move out of their apartment in Rockford without notice. On January 5, 1966, defendant sold his Cadillac to a Rockford auto dealer for $650, and drove to San Diego with his mother, step-father and step-uncle. On January 14, 1966, defendant telephoned Helen Jarley, his former mother-in-law, in Rockford. She told him that the Rockford police were looking for 1961 Cadillacs in connection with the disappearance of Susan Brady. The next day defendant left a note to his step-father, Gene Neal, saying that he had struck the missing girl in Rockford with his car and that she died. He stated that he became frightened because he did not have insurance, took her to the Carruthers's residence and dumped her body where it would never be found. Defendant then left for Mexico.

Subsequent to the sale of defendant's car in Rockford, the Federal Bureau of Investigation entered the case. Special agents interviewed defendant's relatives in California on January 18, 1966, and learned of the note. On January 20, 1966, Rockford police and agents from the Chicago office of the FBI searched the Carruthers's residence in Rockford and found tiny bone fragments and strands of hair in and beneath a trash burner located in a garage to the rear of the Carruthers's residence. The officers also found a sledge hammer which had several tiny spots on the nonstriking part of the head which appeared to be blood. These items were collected, preserved and shipped to the FBI laboratory in Washington, D.C. for analysis.

On January 20-21, 1966, Rockford police and FBI agents examined the inside and outside of defendant's Cadillac, and several items were removed from the car and sent to the FBI laboratory for analysis. At this time, a State warrant charging Failure to Report an Accident Involving Death was issued. A Federal warrant charging Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution was also issued, and the FBI sought the defendant in Mexico.

On February 13, 1966, the defendant returned to San Diego and checked into a hotel under the name of "William Neal". On February 14, 1966, he contacted his relatives in San Diego and asked his step-father to call the FBI. They responded to a call and placed the defendant under arrest. In subsequent interviews with the FBI, defendant's version of the death of Susan Brady was that he had struck Susan with his car, panicked, and burned her body in the trash burner at the Carruthers's garage. On February 14, 1966, a murder warrant was issued against the defendant in Illinois.

A physical anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institute examined the fragmented bones found in and near the incinerator and testified that the bones consisted of the first cervical vertebra, portions of the skull, consisting largely of the facial area and teeth, and bones from the fingers and toes. The anthropologist testified that all of the bones bore evidence of burning and all were of human origin from a child eight to twelve years old.

A witness from the FBI laboratory testified that the hair found in the incinerator consisted of several dozen dark brown, human head hairs, of Caucasian origin. They had been signed. Susan Brady had dark brown hair. Another laboratory witness testified that he found tiny splatters of blood on both sides of the sledge hammer found in the Carruthers's garage. The blood was of human origin but the type could not be determined. No other human remains were found at the Carruthers's residence, at the J.I. Case dump, or anywhere else.

A Rockford police officer testified that he and a special agent from the FBI spent nine hours examining defendant's car on January 20-21, 1966. The entire automobile was examined with particular attention to whether anything might indicate that it had been involved in an auto accident. Seventeen items were removed from the car and sent to the FBI laboratory. These items, many from the auto's undercarriage, were examined to determine the presence of blood, but none was found. The officers testified that they found no damage or repairs to the front of the auto.

An auto repair man testified that he examined defendant's Cadillac on January 3, 1966, in order to give defendant an estimate of what it would cost to repair the damage to the rear of the car done in Georgia a few days before. He stated that he ...

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