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People v. Fentress

MAY 3, 1971.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. HARRY S. STARK, Judge, presiding.


Robert W. Fentress was convicted, following a trial by jury, of the offense of attempt rape (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1965, ch. 38, par. 8-4). Judgment was entered on the verdict and he was sentenced to a term of not less than six nor more than nine years in the Illinois State Penitentiary. On appeal the defendant contends:

1. That he was denied due process by reason of the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress certain physical evidence;

2. That the trial court erred in admitting evidence of separate unrelated crimes attributed to the defendant;

3. That he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The evidence presented by the State established that at approximately 3:30 P.M. on the afternoon of June 13, 1967, the prosecutrix and a companion were accosted in Washington Park by a man wearing a black hat and pants, full length coat, yellow tinted glasses, and black shoes with silver buckles. He told them that he needed two girls for something and that he had money with which to pay them if they so desired. When they attempted to ignore him, he informed them that he had a gun and knife. His right hand was in his coat pocket and he appeared to be pointing an object at them with it.

Under his direction they then proceeded to an area in the park which is enclosed by bushes in the configuration of a horseshoe. There he directed the companion of prosecutrix to remove certain undergarments. She declined, stating that her menstrual cycle had begun. He then made a similar demand upon the prosecutrix and when she attempted to use the same excuse for noncompliance, he stated that he did not believe her and would kill her if he found her to be lying. She then complied with his demand and he pushed her to the ground. He then removed his right hand from his coat pocket while attempting to effect a personal exposure. At this point the prosecutrix noticed that his coat pocket appeared to be flat, that it contained no gun. She jumped to her feet and began to run.

The assailant followed and caught her, again threatening her life. She again escaped his grasp and ran to three boys who were jogging in the park. She explained her plight to them and requested their aid. The boys started toward the assailant who had again thrust his hand into his coat pocket. He warned them to stay away from him or he would shoot, then turned and fled. The boys determined not to attempt to apprehend him but to follow him. They ran behind him through and out of the park but lost sight of him when he turned into Drexel Avenue, a dead end street.

Sergeant Alvin Davis and Officer John Migas arrived at the scene, having been previously informed by an unidentified woman that there were two girls in the park crying for help. They there encountered the prosecutrix.

When the prosecutrix jumped to her feet and ran from her assailant her companion also ran, but in the opposite direction, eventually arriving at a Chicago Transit Authority depot. She there engaged in a conversation with an unidentified person who phoned the police. Officer Lawrence Watson responded to the call and upon arriving at the depot he observed the girl who was crying and out of breath. He engaged in a short conversation with her and then returned to the park where she had left the offender.

Meanwhile the three boys who had followed the attacker returned to the park. They, along with the prosecutrix and the officers, then engaged in a search of the area in the officers' car. The search consumed approximately fifteen minutes. Thereafter they returned to the vicinity of the park to which the offender had directed the girls and there observed a man who appeared to be looking for something on the ground. The prosecutrix and the boys identified him as the assailant, although at this time he was wearing a sleeveless denim jacket, a baseball cap with yellow tinted glasses perched on the bill, and tennis shoes. That man, the defendant, was then placed in custody.

When the prosecutrix' companion returned to the park with Officer Watson the defendant was already in custody. At trial each of the boys as well as prosecutrix and her companion again identified defendant as the offender.

Following the transportation of defendant to the Washington Park Police station, Sergeant Davis returned to the scene of the arrest and conducted a search for a weapon. He found a set of keys and returned to the station with them. According to the testimony of Officer Davis, when defendant saw the keys he stated that they belonged to him, that he had been searching for them in the park, and that they fit his automobile which was parked in an alley between Drexel and Maryland Avenues at 54th Street. (This was the general area, one block, in which the boys lost sight of the offender.)

Officer Davis proceeded to the area where he observed a car in a dilapidated condition. Through a window he observed a pair of black shoes with silver buckles. Entering the car through a rear door which was unlocked and partially unlatched, he removed the shoes, noting that they were wet and had particles of grass ...

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