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People v. Henry

DECEMBER 11, 1973.




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


At approximately 6:00 A.M. on 15 March 1970, Randy Steger, a Clark Oil Station attendant, was found mortally wounded on the floor of a utility room in a house near the station. The station was located on the southwest corner of Route 83 and Ridgeland Avenue in Palos Heights, Illinois. Steger was taken to a hospital where he died from multiple bullet wounds. Indictment No. 70-1332 charged Curtis Henry and Clifford Cheers with the murder of Steger and with attempt armed robbery. Cheers was granted a severance and testified against Henry. Henry was found guilty of both offenses in a bench trial and was sentenced to no less than 50 nor more than 100 years for murder to run concurrently with a term of nor more than 5 nor more than 14 years for the attempt armed robbery. The charges against Cheers were subsequently withdrawn.

Officer Michael Smith of the Worth police department testified that he received a communication to proceed to the Clark Station from his position at 118th Street and Harlem. He arrived at the station at approximately 6:15 A.M. Upon arriving at the station, he noticed some footsteps made by square-toed shoes in the snow that had recently fallen. He followed the footsteps from the front door of the station along a station driveway in a northerly direction to Route 83 and then west on Route 83 on the south shoulder of the road. After about three-quarters of a block, the footsteps crossed Route 83 and proceeded north into premises of the Sanitary District. At this juncture, the witness was joined by a Chicago Ridge squad car. The witness requested the officers in the squad car to stay where the footsteps turned north. The witness then proceeded east on Route 83, intending to return to Ridgeland, turn north, and enter an access road running west from Ridgeland into the same premises of the Sanitary District.

As he was proceeding eastbound on Route 83, the witness observed a man come out of the access road onto Ridgeland Avenue. This man was the defendant, Curtis Henry. His clothing matched the description the witness had been given over the radio. That description was of a black leather jacket, gray pants with stripes and bell bottoms. The witness continued to observe defendant as defendant walked south on Ridgeland, crossed Route 83, and then proceeded east on the south side of Route 83. When the witness stopped defendant, he was between 100 and 200 feet east of Ridgeland.

After stopping defendant, the witness noticed that defendant was wearing square-toed shoes. Defendant was placed under arrest and advised of his constitutional rights. Defendant kept telling the officer that he had done nothing wrong and was only returning home from a party.

Having made the arrest, the witness and another police officer retraced defendant's footsteps north on Ridgeland for about 100 feet where they turned into the premises of the Sanitary District. The footsteps eventually led to the front door of the Clark Station. It took 15 minutes to retrace the steps. The arrest of defendant had been made within 20 minutes of the time the officer had arrived at the station.

Michael Rowley, an off-duty attendant at the gas station, lived about 100 feet from the station in the house of his parents in which the victim was found. He testified he saw Steger lying on the floor in the utility room a little after 6:00 A.M. The witness further testified that he saw footprints of one person in the snow, leading away from the gas station.

A Chicago Police Department Crime Detection Lab technician, Timothy Zamb, testified that he received and examined the clothing worn by both the deceased and the defendant. The witness found numerous perforations in the deceased's clothing and the clothing was bloodstained. The witness did not, however, find any bloodstains or powder residue on defendant's clothing.

The witness testified that an examination of defendant's sweater disclosed that the second and third buttons from the top and right front panel area were missing. In addition, two buttons in the right front panel waistband area were found to be missing. The witness was then shown a gray button that had been found in Cheer's automobile. He testified that the button was morphologically similar to the remaining buttons on the right front panel of the garment. (A second button also found in Cheer's automobile could not be matched).

The witness further testified that an examination of defendant's trousers disclosed tears on the left knee area and in the right buttocks area. There were rips in and around the front and rear right pocket areas. The witness was then shown an envelope containing threads recovered from a telephone pole in front of the station. The threads were found on the east side of the pole about waist high. The witness testified that the threads were morphologically identical with the fibers in defendant's gray and white trousers.

A pathologist testified that the cause of death was a bullet wound to the abdomen and a laceration of the liver. He also noted that there were seven entrance wounds and five exit wounds. A firearms expert testified that the bullets that had killed the deceased were fired from the nine-shot, .32 caliber Vilar semi-automatic pistol identified as belonging to Cheers and found under a rock 500 feet west of the gas station on Route 83, 5' 10" from the south side of the road.

It further developed that Henry and Cheers had been taken to the hospital where Steger had been taken for treatment before his death. Steger did not make an identification of defendant or of Cheers before he died.

Clifford Cheers, the severed co-defendant, testified he was at his house at 14734 Oakley with Curtis Henry, the witness' mother, the witness' wife, Henry's girl friend Janice Spears, and a lady named Willabee until about 5:00 A.M. on 15 March 1970, when the women expressed a desire to leave. Cheers accompanied defendant into the bedroom where defendant asked to see Cheers' gun and defendant stated that he knew of a place where they could get some money. Cheers put the gun in his pocket, and everyone (except Cheers' wife) got into Cheers' automobile.

They dropped Cheers' mother off at her house at 155th and Lincoln and proceeded to the vicinity of 147th and Winchester where defendant went into his mother's house and where Spears and Willabee were dropped off to stay at the mother's house. While defendant was in the house, Cheers took one shell out of the gun and put it on the seat of the car and placed the gun on safety. Defendant returned and directed him to the gas station. Driving west on Route 83, they went past the station slowly and stopped about two blocks west of the station. There they discussed the robbery. Defendant got out of the car with the gun after having removed another shell. The witness then drove back east on Route 83 past defendant to the end ...

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