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People v. Echoles





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRED G. SURIA, JR., Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Richard Echoles, was charged with aggravated battery and attempt murder of his wife, Gloria Echoles, and with murder for the homicide of his stepdaughter, Johnnethea Johnson. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 38, pars. 12-4, 8-4, and 9-1(a)(1) and (2).) After a bench trial, findings of guilty of attempt murder and voluntary manslaughter were made, judgment entered thereon, and concurrent sentences of from 6 to 18 years on each charge imposed. No specific findings were made on the aggravated battery charges; however, due to the sentence imposed on the greater charge of attempt murder, judgment of conviction and sentencing on the lesser and included offense of aggravated battery would be precluded. (People v. Edgeston, 9 Ill. App.3d 880, 293 N.E.2d 344.) Defendant appeals from both convictions, arguing that the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to establish his guilt of either offense beyond a reasonable doubt.


At trial, Gloria testified that she and defendant had maintained separate residences since 1966. On April 21, 1972, the date of the occurrence, Gloria lived with her daughter, Johnnethea (hereinafter referred to as "J.J."). J.J. was 20 years old and weighed approximately 124 pounds. At about 6 p.m. on this date, Gloria was entertaining several people at a dinner party in the basement recreation room of her building. During the party, she went to her first floor apartment where she observed defendant seated in her bedroom. It is disputed whether or not Gloria had given a key to defendant allowing him free access to her apartment. Defendant stated that he wished to talk with her, but she spurned his request. Gloria proceeded into the kitchen before returning to the basement. Defendant followed her to the basement where he remained for a few moments before departing.

Shortly thereafter, Gloria heard the doorbell ring and proceeded upstairs to the vestibule, but found no one at the door. As she turned, she observed defendant seated on the stairs leading to the second floor. Defendant asked to speak with her, but Gloria again declined. Gloria returned to her apartment to call her landlady, but defendant, who had a "shiny metal object" in his hand, "reached over [her] as if to cut the phone wires." However, she was able to complete the call. After ending her conversation, Gloria turned and defendant commenced striking her several times on her chest and shoulders. While the witness was attempting to defend herself, J.J. emerged from a bedroom and told defendant to leave her mother alone. Then, according to Gloria's testimony, defendant lunged at J.J. and struck her near her stomach. J.J. began bleeding and fell to the floor. Defendant then resumed his attack on Gloria, hitting her several times in the vicinity of her arms and head. She retaliated by grabbing some figurines from the table and throwing them at defendant. Defendant fled as some of the dinner guests came upstairs.

Throughout this incident, Gloria believed that defendant was using his fist when striking both her and J.J. She further testified that she has several scars as a result of the fight.

On cross-examination, Gloria stated that when she told defendant, upon observing him sitting on the stairway, that she would not talk with him, he responded in a "forceful" manner that "if [Gloria] didn't talk to him, [she] wouldn't talk to anybody else." She also related that she did not shout obscenities at defendant before he started hitting her.

Two of the dinner guests were called by the prosecution to testify. Both witnesses had observed defendant in the basement on two brief occasions during the party. Shortly after defendant left the basement the second time, both heard screams coming from Gloria's apartment. They proceeded upstairs to the apartment and observed J.J. lying on the dining room floor covered with blood, and Gloria lying on the hallway floor bleeding from her head and arms. One of the witnesses observed defendant leaving the apartment, and the other witness testified that she did not see any weapons in either the dining room, where the victims were lying, or in the living room.

Two Chicago police officers who arrived at the scene described the premises and the condition of the victims in a manner corroborative of the testimony of the two guests. Gloria related to the officers that she had been attacked by defendant.

A police officer for the City of Harvey arrested defendant on April 21, 1972. A search of defendant's car following his arrest revealed a small serrated steak knife in the glove compartment.

A pathologist with the Cook County Coroner's Office testified that on April 24, 1972, he performed an autopsy on the body of Johnnethea Johnson. He attributed the cause of her death to a stab wound in the femoral artery of her left thigh. He also testified that a weapon similar to the knife recovered from defendant's car could have been the weapon by which J.J.'s fatal wound was inflicted.

Defendant's landlady testified for the defense. On April 21, 1972, at approximately 8:30 p.m., defendant came to her apartment. He appeared excited, his jacket was torn, and he was bleeding from scratches on his face. Defendant related to the witness that he had had a "misunderstanding" with his wife. After unsuccessfully attempting to call his wife, defendant left the witness' apartment.

Defendant testified that, although he saw his wife often, they continued to live separately because they had frequent arguments. On April 21, 1972, defendant went to Gloria's apartment. Defendant's account of the events which transpired preceding the altercation was similar to Gloria's testimony; defendant made five requests to his wife to discuss their marital difficulties, but Gloria refused each time because she was entertaining guests.

Defendant's testimony regarding the events subsequent to his encounter with Gloria in the vestibule diverges from Gloria's account of the situation. After Gloria reentered her apartment, defendant proceeded to the basement to place a telephone call. Although he did not complete the call, defendant did pick up the receiver and no one was on the line. Defendant returned upstairs and observed Gloria standing near the kitchen. Defendant testified that he did not have a knife in his possession, that Gloria had not informed him that she was going to call her landlady to request that the locks to her apartment be changed, that he did not attempt to cut the telephone wires, and that he did not tell Gloria that she would not talk to anyone else if she refused to talk to him. When Gloria again refused to talk to him, defendant became angry and grabbed Gloria by the arm, stating to her that they should sit down and discuss their problems. Gloria pulled out of defendant's grasp and "she came up with a knife." Defendant testified that Gloria used vulgar language and threatened to cut him if he did not leave her alone. A struggle ensued with defendant attempting to gain control of the knife. Gloria scratched defendant, and he hit her a few times. Although defendant never held the knife in ...

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