APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. FRED H.
GEIGER, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE THOMAS J. MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
After a bench trial, defendant, Warren David Reddock, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to serve thirty to fifty years in the state penitentiary. The indictment charged that he had killed Harvey Rosenzweig (sometimes referred to as the deceased) by a blow to the head with a blunt instrument. A chronological summary of the evidence follows.
Celia Rosenzweig, the deceased's sister, testified that deceased, a 40-year old accountant, lived with her, two other sisters and their mother in a home on Bryn Mawr Avenue in Chicago. In the summer of 1968, he drove to Canada for a vacation and, while in Montreal, responded to a newspaper ad relating to a business venture. He returned from this vacation sometime in the beginning of August 1968.
On August 12, 1968, one Donald A. Nichols checked into room 358 of the Mt. Prospect Holiday Inn. (Through the use of handwriting analysis, it was proven that the man purporting to be Donald A. Nichols was actually the defendant, Warren Reddock.)
On the same day, the deceased met and conferred with his attorney, Richard Kahn, who, as a result of this meeting, drew up an employment agreement between deceased and the European Arms Corporation. The attorney testified that, while in his office, deceased made a phone call and asked for a Mr. Reddock. Listening on an extension phone, Kahn heard a man answer; deceased addressed the man as Warren or Mr. Reddock and introduced him to Kahn by those names. The attorney spoke to the man and confirmed certain facts concerning the employment agreement: i.e., that deceased would become the president of a corporation which would initially be engaged in the investment of land in Lake County, Illinois, and which would be partially funded by money coming from Canada.
On that day, also, Louis Behm, a real estate broker, received a telephone call from a man named Mr. Nichols who inquired into the advertised sale of 900 acres of wooded land in Lake County (hereinafter referred to as the Mud Lake property). On August 14, 1968, Nichols arrived at Behm's office and the two men drove out to inspect the property. Behm testified that the man told him that he was interested in an arms manufacturing company which would be financed by money coming from Canada, that a man by the name of Rosenzweig would run the operation and that Rosenzweig's attorney was a man named Kahn. After viewing the Mud Lake property, Nichols advised Behm that he wanted to show the property to his partner, that he would get in touch with Behm at a later date, and that Behm could reach him at the Mt. Prospect Holiday Inn in room number 358. At trial, Behm identified the defendant Reddock as the man he had known as Nichols and the one to whom he had shown the Mud Lake property on August 14th.
Celia Rosenzweig testified that on the morning of August 16, 1968, the deceased prepared to take a trip. Over objection of defense counsel, she related a conversation she had with her brother, saying, "He said he was going to look at the land * * * and that Mr. Reddock would pick him up across the street on the corner * * *."
Later on the day of August 16th, two men came to see Behm at his Grayslake office but he was not in. Behm's employee identified the deceased as one of these men but could not identify the other. At 6:25 P.M. that day, the deceased registered at the Waukegan Motor Inn. Registering to share the room with deceased was one "W. Bradley." A handwriting analyst testified that the signature of "W. Bradley" indicated that the individual was, in fact, the defendant Warren Reddock. William Thompson, assistant manager of the Inn, testified that on an evening in the middle of August, 1968, in the restaurant of the Inn, he joined in a conversation between the deceased and another man and discussed real estate development in the general area; that on the following morning he observed the same men, casually dressed, and that the man accompanying the deceased carried a small tool chest. At the trial, Thompson identified the deceased from a photograph but upon being asked whether the man who he had seen with the deceased was in the courtroom Thompson identified a deputy sheriff. Over defense objections, Thompson was then called as a court's witness and, in answer to the court's questions, testified that he had been shown two photographs in October, 1971, that he had identified the subject of one as the deceased and the other (a picture of defendant) as the man who accompanied him.
On the morning of August 17, 1968, Celia Rosenzweig received a letter from the deceased, postmarked August 16, 1968, in McHenry, Illinois, in which he informed his sister that he would be leaving for Monaco and gave her an address and telephone number where he could be reached. Later that morning, Celia received a telephone call from her brother telling her, "Because of the downpour on Friday, he had not been able to go out and look at the land and so their plans would be changed and they would go to Monaco via Montreal." He was never seen alive nor heard from again after August 17.
On that date, a man purporting to be Harvey Rosenzweig checked into the O'Hare Travelodge Hotel. A handwriting analyst testified that the signature of Harvey Rosenzweig on the registration card was not written by the deceased and that the printing of the address, city and state on the card was in fact executed by the defendant. On August 19, 22 and 27, checks were written on Harvey Rosenzweig's checking account; defendant's fingerprints were found on two of these checks and a handwriting analyst testified that the defendant had signed the name Harvey Rosenzweig on all of them. Beginning August 17, and through the month of September, the deceased's Carte Blanche credit card was used in New York, Hong Kong, Mexico, and Montreal. A handwriting analyst testified that the Harvey Rosenzweig signatures on the receipts had not been written by the deceased. Although there was no testimony that the signatures on these receipts had been written by defendant, his fingerprints were found on one of the receipts from Mexico, dated September 18.
On September 30, 1968, at a hotel in Jamaica, defendant conversed with Raymond Raedel, told Raedel that he was a surgeon at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago and that he lived on Bryn Mawr Avenue in Chicago with his aunt and her daughter. When, on the following day, Raedel complimented defendant on the sport coat he wore, defendant informed Raedel that he had purchased it in Hong Kong and opened the jacket to show the Hong Kong label.
In September of 1968, concerned when the deceased did not return home as scheduled, his sister attempted to contact him at the Monaco address and phone number which she had been given; she discovered that both the address and phone number were non-existent.
On September 26, 1968, two hunters found a badly decomposed human body on the Mud Lake property; a dental examination proved this to be Harvey Rosenzweig's body. The clothing on the body was very similar to that which deceased was described as wearing when last observed by Thompson at the Waukegan Inn. His pockets were empty and one had been turned inside-out.
The state of decomposition prohibited an autopsy but a pathologist testified that a large gaping fracture of the left side of deceased's head was, in his opinion, the cause of death and that the wound had been caused by one or two blows from a blunt instrument. He further testified that, in his opinion, death occurred four to six weeks prior to discovery of the body.
A hatchet, which appeared to have been new, was discovered in Squaw Creek, approximately 45 feet from the body. At the trial, it was demonstrated that the blunt end of the hatchet fit into the rectangular hole in the back of the deceased's skull. Nothing on the skull or the hatchet indicated that the hatchet was the murder weapon but there was testimony that the skull fracture was caused by an extremely similar, if not identical hatchet. Checking hardware stores in an attempt to trace those which carried that particular brand of hatchet, two deputy sheriffs located one store in McHenry, Illinois; there was no evidence, however, that the hatchet discovered was actually purchased at that store.
Four major issues, three containing sub-issues, are raised in defendant's original brief: (1) the court erred in admitting irrelevant evidence and incompetent hearsay testimony; (2) the court erred in calling William A. Thompson as a court's witness; (3) the court erred in allowing the handwriting analyst to use certain of defendant's handwriting exemplars; and (4) defendant was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a supplemental brief, defendant raises the issue that his sentence was excessive.
I. Did the court err in admitting irrelevant evidence and incompetent hearsay testimony?
Defendant argues that the court erred in admitting the hatchet since there was no compliance with the rule that to be admissible, a weapon must be connected to both the crime and the defendant. People v. Germany, 28 Ill.2d 154, 156-157 (1963).
The hatchet, found 45 feet from the body, was fairly new when discovered and its blunt end fit into the hole in the victim's skull. In the opinion of a criminalistics expert, the hatchet caused the hole in the skull, although not to the exclusion of all other similar hatchets. While this evidence tended to circumstantially link the hatchet to the crime, the State concedes that the only evidence linking defendant to the hatchet was the fact that the hatchet could be purchased in McHenry, Illinois and that the decedent had mailed a letter in that city on the day before he was last seen alive. This evidence does not sufficiently link defendant to the hatchet and, consequently, the hatchet should not have been admitted.
• 1 In Germany, supra, our Supreme Court held that a toy pistol introduced during a robbery trial, although found in defendant's possession, had not been connected in any manner with the crime and was inadmissible. However, it was held that since defendant had been tried in a bench trial, the admission of the pistol was not so prejudicial as to constitute reversible error. In the instant case, there was sufficient evidence linking the hatchet to the crime but not to the ...