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People v. Coddington

APRIL 28, 1970.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Twentieth Judicial Circuit; the Hon. HAROLD O. FARMER, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.


The defendant, David L. Coddington, hereinafter referred to as Coddington, was convicted of the murder of John A. Petermeyer, hereinafter referred to as Petermeyer, in a jury trial in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, wherein the jury returned a verdict of death. The trial court denied defendant's motion for a new trial, and sentenced Coddington to a term of not less than 199 nor more than 200 years. Chapter 38, section 1-7, Ill Rev Stats. Coddington appeals.

The evidence shows that the victim, Petermeyer, was living in a house belonging to Coddington's mother at 3335 Vernier Avenue in Belleville, Illinois. Petermeyer had been acquainted with the Coddington family for over thirty years and had lived with them on several occasions. He had been living in the house with the permission of Mrs. Coddington for the purpose of maintaining the premises. Petermeyer was 78 years of age but was quite agile for his age and was able to maintain a garden and cut the grass, even though he walked with a slight limp due to a broken leg two years before.

On June 8, 1966, a niece of Petermeyer reported to the City Police of Belleville, Illinois, that he was missing. The police examined the premises on Vernier Avenue and found certain bloodstains. In the course of investigation the police talked to the next door neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Pierce, who advised that they had not seen Petermeyer since the early part of April, 1966, but they had subsequently seen Coddington, and Mrs. Pierce had a conversation with Coddington in early May, 1966, at the mailbox in front of the house. A propane gas deliveryman delivered a bottle of gas on April 6, 1966, which was signed for by Petermeyer. The time of day of this delivery was not established.

The police determined to question Coddington and learned from his father-in-law, Leroy Daubach, that he had gone to Minnesota in an automobile, the title to which was registered in the name of the father-in-law. The police prevailed upon the father-in-law to prefer a charge against Coddington for auto theft as a means to have him brought back to Belleville for questioning, and on July 5, 1966, Coddington was arrested in Minnesota on the auto theft charge by a special agent of the F.B.I., who interrogated him concerning the whereabouts of Petermeyer.

Meanwhile, the Belleville police were continuing their investigation and Chief of Police Dobson interrogated a certain William McDaniel, a convicted felon on probation from a prior offense who became the key witness for the prosecution in the present case. McDaniel's testimony was that Coddington told him that he (Coddington) had killed Petermeyer and compelled McDaniel to assist him in disposing of the body through threats to the safety of McDaniel's wife and children. McDaniel led the police to an area known as Silver Creek in St. Clair County, where the body of Petermeyer was found on July 22, 1966.

Eventually Coddington was returned from Minnesota to St. Clair County, Illinois, in the custody of deputy sheriffs on November 18, 1966, and remained in the county jail until the morning of November 21, 1966, when he was transferred to the city jail of Belleville and, following a conversation with Chief Dobson, he made the following written statement on November 22, 1966:

"I, David L. Coddington, age 24 years, married, born in Belleville, Illinois, Occupation Medical Specialist, residing at 217 So. 29th Street, Belleville, Illinois, have been advised by Chief Reese G. Dobson and Joseph Rodriguez that I have a right to remain silent and that I do not have to make any statement, answer any questions or talk to Chief Dobson and Mr. Rodriguez nor answer any questions directed to me; I have further been advised that anything I say, or any statement I give, can and will be introduced into evidence in Court against me, I have further been advised that if I want an attorney to be present at this time or anytime hereafter I am entitled to such attorney, and that if I cannot afford to pay for an attorney, that an attorney will be furnished to me if I so desire and that if I do desire an attorney I do not have to make any statement or answer any questions until such time as an attorney has consulted with me.

"Having been advised of these rights as above, I hereby agree to make a statement, to answer questions asked of me and I waive my right to have an attorney as above set forth. I further state that I have not been threatened or mistreated in any fashion nor have any promises of leniency been made to me in return for making this statement.

"On Wednesday, April 6, 1966, I went to visit my sister, Mrs. Cheryl J. Milligan at 212 West Washington Street in Belleville, Illinois. In the course of this visit my sister ask me if I would take her to 3335 Vernier Ave. (a house owned by my mother and occupied by John A. Petermeyer), to get an electric frying pan (which our Mother had told her she could have) and some clothing which belonged to my sister. I agreed to take her to the house to get these items.

"We arrived at the house on Vernier Avenue at about 11:15 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. and were confronted at the entrance of the house by John A. Petermeyer. At the beginning, John Petermeyer started calling us names (mainly directed at my sister such as whore and little Bitch, he referred to me as a God damn ex-convict) and refused to admit us to the house. After a couple of minutes of arguing with John Petermeyer we (my sister and I) finally gained admittance to the house.

"When we entered the house the argueing continued with John Petermeyer. My sister took a seat in the kitchen next to the door entering the house, I took a seat at the opposite end of the kitchen table from my sister in a more or less lounge type chair. John Petermeyer took a seat to begin with in a kitchen chair between my sister and I.

"The argument that was taking place between the three of us was the same as many arguements that had previously occurred between John Petermeyer and I. The subject matter of these arguements were that John Petermeyer was not taking proper care of the interior of the house, he was drinking and becoming drunk which was against my Mother's wishes and in general allowing the house to depreciate a great deal.

"John Petermeyer alleged that We (my sister Cheryl, her husband George O. Milligan and myself) were in a plot to have him John Petermeyer removed from the house so that either my sister and her husband or my wife and I could move into the house. We tried to explain to him that none of us wanted the house for own personal use, but at the same time we did not wish to have him (John Petermeyer) allow the house to depreciate through neglect. We always told him that we did not wish to have him (John Petermeyer) removed from the house, but we would have him removed if he did not stop his drinking and if he did not start taking better care of the house.

"On April 6, 1966, this is what the argument was about. John Petermeyer kept saying that he was not going to let us tell him what to do and he wasn't going to allow himself to be removed so that my Whore of a sister and her rotten husband could move in, or that he would allow himself to be removed so a god damn ex-convict and his bitch wife could move in.

"As the argument progressed John Petermeyer stood up and became steadily more enraged and more abusive in the nature of his language towards my sister and I.

"At the height of this argument I got up and turning my back to John Petermeyer I started pouring a cup of coffee at the stove and at the same time telling him I was fed up with him and was going to write my mother to have John Petermeyer removed from the house. I had just set the coffee down and was about to go to the cabinet where the sugar was kept when my sister screamed `David look out' I started to turn around when I was hit by John Petermeyer, a glancing blow with a hammer on the top rear of my head. The blow was not sufficient to render me unconscious but it did knock me down on the floor.

"After knocking me down John Petermeyer turned on my sister and said `I'll get you too.' My sister started to retreat towards the living room of the house. I got to my feet and stopped Petermeyer at the archway leading from the kitchen to the living room. John Petermeyer and I became engaged in battle for the hammer and in this process he forced me back into the kitchen. At a point opposite of an Amana freezer in the kitchen I managed to get the hammer out of John Petermeyer's hand.

"When I got the hammer out of his hand he reached down on a cabinet and picked up a wooden handled butcher knife. We then were wrestling very hard and he told me `I'm going to kill you.' While wrestling I broke his grip on my right hand in which I now had the hammer and side stepped him and he went past me. At this point his back was towards me and I struck him with the hammer and he fell to the floor in front of the kitchen sink.

"My blow was not hard enough to knock him out and he got back up with the knife in his hand and started advancing towards me again. I back away from him into the living room trying to reason with him to put the knife down. My sister stayed a distance behind me and eventually wound up in the back room where the washer, dryer and bath facilities are. When I reached the door to the room my sister had retreated into, John Petermeyer swung at me with the knife and I grabbed his wrist. I dropped the hammer from my hand to free my right hand in an effort to have both hands free to fight for the knife which John Petermeyer had. John Petermeyer forced me back against a portion of wall between the furnace and the door leading to the back room. I forced myself back off the wall placing my right foot behind Petermeyer, tripping him and causing us both to fall, with me on top of Petermeyer. It was at this point that I managed to get the knife from Petermeyer and I stabbed him twice in the chest. After stabbing him twice I threw the knife on a rug in front of the living room couch. Petermeyer ...

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