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People v. Shaffer

OPINION FILED JUNE 10, 1977.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

ROBERT SHAFFER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Ogle County; the Hon. THOMAS J. HORNSBY, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE BOYLE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Robert Shaffer, defendant-appellant, hereinafter referred to as "defendant," was convicted at a bench trial of reckless homicide and failure to report an accident. He appeals from that conviction.

In the early evening of August 21, 1974, Nancy Reed left her home on Flagg Center Road in Ogle County to go for her customary evening bicycle ride. When she failed to return by her usual time, her parents became concerned and instituted a search.

At approximatley 11:30 p.m. on August 21, 1974, Nancy Reed's body was found in a ditch along Flagg Center Road. She was apparently the victim of a hit-and-run accident. An investigation of the scene produced ample evidence of such an accident, but no clues were found as to the identity of the vehicle involved.

In an effort to discover possible witnesses to the hit-and-run accident, the investigating officer, Deputy Melvin Messer of the Ogle County Sheriff's Department set up a roadblock at the scene of the accident. He did this on August 22 and 23 at the approximate time of the accident. Deputy Messer stopped all vehicles traveling on Flagg Center Road, a county road, explained to the drivers that he was investigating a hit-and-run accident, and asked them if they had been on Flagg Center Road at approximately 6:30 p.m. on August 21.

One of the vehicles stopped by Deputy Messer on August 23 was that of the defendant. When asked if he had been on Flagg Center Road at about 6:30 p.m. on the 21st, the defendant first indicated that he had been there, but quickly changed his answer and said that he had been there at a later hour.

Because he had noticed some damage to the front end of the defendant's car, Deputy Messer recorded the car's make, color, and license number. After this momentary delay, defendant drove on his way.

A few minutes later while traveling on a nearby road, defendant was again stopped. This stop was made by Detective Garrett of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, who was assisting in the investigation. Detective Garrett stopped the defendant because he had noted the damage to the front end of the defendant's car. When asked if he had been on Flagg Center Road at about 6:30 in the evening of the 21st, the defendant again stated that he had been on the road at a later hour. The defendant then proceeded on his way.

On August 26, 1974, the defendant was arrested at his home in Oregon, Illinois, and given his Miranda warnings. He was then transported to the Ogle County Sheriff's Department. In the parking lot, Deputy Messer pointed out the damage to the front end of the car to the defendant. After again being given his Miranda warnings, the defendant made an oral statement. At trial, Deputy Messer recounted that statement in the following manner:

"At that point, Mr. Shaffer sat down on the cement parking block and stated, `Yes, I knew after I had been stopped the second time that it must have been me that hit the girl on the bicycle on Flagg Road,' he further stated that he knew he had hit something but didn't know what, that he had fallen asleep and when he woke up something was flying over the top or back of his car."

Defendant was then taken to the sheriff's office where, after again being given his Miranda warnings and reading and signing a voluntary statement form, he wrote out the following statement in his own hand:

"I was driving my car west on Flagg Road on Aug. 21st about 6:30 P.M. and about one mile East of Chana Road I hit something on the side of the road (north side). I looked in the rear view mirror and saw something fly into the ditch. I stopped and examined my car and saw no damage and continued on to Oregon.

My front end had previous damage but a definite dent probably made by something or somebody I hit is now there.

On Aug. 23rd on the same road I was stopped by county officials and told about and asked about the accident. I told them I knew nothing about it. And with a clear conscience I knew nothing about it. Then going home to Oregon I put 2 2 together and realized that it ...


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