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People v. Brooks

AUGUST 14, 1972.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. PHILIP ROMITI, Judge, presiding.


After trial by jury, Harry Brooks (defendant) was found guilty of the murder of his mother. The court sentenced him to the penitentiary for 100 years to 175 years.

Defendant appeals, contending: (1) that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress physical evidence; (2) that the evidence failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) that the trial court failed to instruct the jury adequately regarding circumstantial evidence; (4) that he was denied a fair trial by virtue of an occurrence in the presence of the jury; and (5) that the court erred in receiving certain demonstrative evidence. We will first state the pertinent facts and then consider these contentions in order.

We will first identify certain of the witnesses and participants and we will then state a summary of their testimony in chronological manner. For some seventeen years prior to this occurrence, defendant and his mother had lived together in her apartment on the second floor rear of a building on West Lake Street in Chicago. At the time of her death, the mother was about 75 years of age. At that time, defendant was approximately 54 years old. The deceased had known a woman named Clara Brabec on a fairly intimate basis for from 25 to 30 years. They generally had Christmas dinner together. Another person friendly with the deceased was Alice Brooks who was married to defendant but separated from him. Defendant at that time was friendly with a woman named Ann Carlson and they were contemplating marriage.

The evidence also shows that it was customary for the deceased to have fairly large sums of currency in her possession. She kept this money pinned to her garter belt in a long envelope. The deceased also had a number of pieces of costume jewelry including a pin which had been given to her by Clara Brabec. She also owned three fairly valuable rings. Two of these rings were diamonds which deceased kept pinned to her girdle. The third ring was an oval shaped purple ring which she wore constantly on her hand. Defendant and his mother were the only persons who had keys to the apartment. From this point on, we will state the various facts in chronological order.

On Friday, December 20, 1968, Alice Brooks spoke to the deceased on the telephone and they made arrangements to meet for Christmas dinner at 1:00 P.M. On the same day, during the morning, Clara Brabec went to the apartment. She noted that the window drapes were drawn shut. At 2:15 P.M. she went there again to visit the deceased and apparently found no one home. She found the back door locked and there was no answer to her knock. She called on the telephone several times during the day and received no answer.

On Saturday, December 21, 1968, Clara Brabec again called the apartment and received no answer. On that same day, defendant met with Ann Carlson. Prior to that time he had borrowed small sums from Mrs. Carlson in the neighborhood of $10 or $20. He then owed her $125. On that date, he produced a large roll of bills in $20 and $50 denominations and gave her $200. In addition, at the same time, he gave her the three valuable rings owned by his mother, including the oval ring which had constantly been on her finger, and the two diamonds which she had kept pinned to her girdle.

On Sunday, December 22, 1968, Alice Brooks attempted to call the deceased several times during the day and until 10:00 P.M. She did not receive any answer. Clara Brabec called two or three times on the telephone on that same day and received no answer. On that day, defendant had another conversation with Ann Carlson in which he told her that his mother had gone to Arizona. At that time, defendant had a key to Ann Carlson's home and he testified that he stayed at her apartment for several nights during this particular time. On Monday, December 23, 1968, both Alice Brooks and Clara Brabec again attempted unsuccessfully to reach the deceased on the telephone.

On Tuesday, December 24, 1968, Mrs. Ernest Schmidt, wife of the building janitor, went upstairs to the front door of the apartment during the evening hours. She knocked and received no answer. She did not try to open the door to ascertain if it was locked. She saw no sign of damage to the front door or of forcible entry. She had a Christmas present for deceased in a gift wrapped box. She left this package in the hall in front of the door. Two other gift wrapped packages were already there. On that same day, Clara Brabec called the apartment on the telephone and received no answer. She also rang the front bell but received no answer. As we will note later, defendant testified that on this day he found his mother's dead body in the apartment. On Christmas Day, and on the next day, Clara Brabec again failed to reach deceased by telephone. In addition, Alice Brooks called deceased and received no answer.

On December 27, 1968, Clara Brabec called deceased several times from work and received no answer. At about 2:30 in the afternoon, she visited the apartment and knocked at the door but received no answer. She went around to the rear door and found that door ajar but held in place by the inside chain. She then spoke to Ernest Schmidt, the janitor, and also to Edward Williams, the owner of the building. She then went to a tavern one block away from the apartment. She saw defendant sitting at the bar with his head down. She inquired about his mother and he said that his mother had gone to Arizona. Mrs. Brabec replied that the mother had never told her about this trip and she asked defendant if she could have his keys to the apartment. Defendant made no response. He stood up and she inserted her hand into his coat pocket and removed the mother's costume jewelry wrapped in a handkerchief. She asked defendant if he was robbing his mother. There was no response but defendant left and she followed. She again asked for the keys and defendant refused. He also said that his mother had left the apartment early on December 23 and that he did not know where she was. Mrs. Brabec threatened to call the police and said to defendant, "I think something has happened to your mother." Defendant did not respond. In the opinion of Mrs. Brabec, he was not intoxicated at that time and place. Mrs. Brabec also rang the bell to the apartment on that same day, about 8 or 8:30 P.M., and there was no response.

Ernest Schmidt, the building janitor, also testified that, after his conversation with Clara Brabec, he went up to the apartment. He found the front door closed. He did not try the door handle. He had no pass key and tried unsuccessfully to insert other keys in his possession. There were no signs of forcible entry at the front or back of the apartment. There were no gift wrapped packages at the front door. He found no odor in the hallway. He went to the same tavern where he found defendant, who had been drinking. Defendant told him that his mother had gone to Arizona. On the same day, defendant left Ann Carlson's apartment and took with him the money that he had previously given her, as well as the three rings.

On Saturday morning, December 28, 1968, at 8:30 A.M., Ernest Schmidt, the building janitor, returned to the apartment. He noticed an unusual odor in the hallway and he asked the building owner to call the police. This was done and two officers responded to the call. When they were halfway up the stairs, they noticed a strong and unusual odor from the second floor. They identified this odor as being associated with the presence of a dead body. They found the front door unlocked. It opened upon turning the handle and they entered. The officers testified that they found nothing to indicate forcible entry. As they entered the apartment, the odor became stronger. As they entered the living room, they saw a huge pile of clothing, blankets, shirts and papers on the couch with the feet of a woman protruding from one end. Photographs received in evidence depicted this scene with Christmas wrapping and Christmas boxes on top of the stack of clothing over the body. Several Christmas gifts had been unwrapped. On a small table in front of the couch, the police found an open but empty bottle of cologne. A slight odor of cologne came from the top of the heap. Then then called their supervisor and the Crime Laboratory.

While waiting, they inspected the bathroom and found a blood stained rug in the bathtub. There was an odor from the rug similar to that in the apartment. The rug was stained with a substance later determined to be blood. They also entered the open bedroom and found a man's shirt. Stains on this article were subsequently found to be blood. They noted that the drapes in the front, or living room where the couch was located, were pinned together with three or four clothespins in each drape.

The objects upon the body were then removed and the corpse exposed. The deceased was facing toward the back of the couch; her clothing had been pulled up close to her head and her undergarments had been pulled down toward her knees. She was wearing a girdle at that time. Competent pathological evidence established without contradiction that death occurred from seven to ten days before December 29, 1968, which would be any time from December 19 up to December 22. Death resulted from two stab wounds in the neck. There was no evidence of sexual molestation. There was one bruise below the chin and another in back of the neck. The stab wounds were in the front portion of the neck. There were no other signs of violence.

While the police were in the apartment, Ann Carlson called and the police answered. They told her that defendant was wanted in connection with the death of his mother. Clara Brabec called at or about that time and the police told her of the mother's death. On that same day, defendant met a man named Louis Tazelaar at a liquor store. They had known each other for about a month or six weeks. Apparently indulgence in alcohol was their common interest. They had a number of drinks and defendant went home with Tazelaar. Defendant stayed at Tazelaar's home for a week. During all of that time they drank rather heavily and defendant always gave Tazelaar the required money for the purchase of liquor. Defendant never went out of the home but all purchases were made by Tazelaar. Ann Carlson also joined defendant at Tazelaar's home, together with the latter's daughter and at times her fiance.

On Monday evening, December 30, 1968, defendant called Clara Brabec and asked her where his mother's body was. Defendant asked if she knew in which cemetery the mother would be buried. Mrs. Brabec at that point became hysterical and asked defendant how he could do this. Defendant made no denial of his guilt but told Mrs. Brabec that he was going to commit suicide. She said, "I hope that the police catch you before and make you view your mother's body." Defendant then hung up. On this same day, some 30 ...

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