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People v. Abendroth

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 12, 1977.

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

v.

CHARLES ABENDROTH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Macon County; the Hon. RODNEY A. SCOTT, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE GREEN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant Charles Abendroth appeals from convictions of arson and sentences imposed thereon in four consolidated cases tried by a jury in the Circuit Court of Macon County. In each case he was sentenced to 1 to 20 years imprisonment. Among the errors cited on appeal are the claims that in each case the evidence was insufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and that he was denied due process by the failure of the State to furnish him, pursuant to his demand, a tape recording of a confession made by him which contained information favorable to his defense. We determine that all but one of the convictions must be reversed because of the failure of the proof and that a new trial must be granted upon the other charge because of the failure to provide defendant with the tape recording.

Defendant was arrested in Maroa in the early morning hours of March 2, 1976, after the chief of police of Maroa had observed him driving a truck in a manner that crossed the center line of a road several times. In the cab of the truck was one opened can of beer and several unopened ones. A quantity of folded newspapers was under the seat. In the bed were two containers containing a substance that smelled like gasoline. A pair of gloves were also found in the truck. According to the arresting officers, defendant's breath smelled of "alcohol." Defendant was taken into custody, and advised of his Miranda rights by an Officer Stevens after he, defendant, signed a Miranda rights waiver. The case against defendant is based upon his statements given to Stevens during that interview as testified to by that officer. The testimony was as follows:

"Q. [by counsel for the State] O.K., what happened then?

A. [by Officer Stevens] Well, then he told me that somewhere around before Christmas in 1975, he thought it might have been the last few days of November, or the first of December, but he did remember it was before Christmas, he went in the Maroa area and there was some old abandoned buildings that — where the house had exploded, and he thought that the house had exploded from a furnace explosion and partially burned, and he set fire to one of the buildings there that night. From there, he thought that he went to a place, the Carl Pence place, where he said he burned down, what he described as an old chicken coop. Later on, he said he went somewhere near the rest area around Maroa and burned a building there. He said on March 1, that he had gone to Clinton and on his way back, came across a corn crib and he set this afire and went on a little further, and found an old abandoned two story building and there he took prairie grass and papers and set this building on fire.

Q. What else did he say, if you can recall?

A. He said — I ask him why he had done this, if he had been offered money or any reasons for doing this, and he said he had never been offered any money. Most of the places, he didn't even know the owner, but somewhere along the line, he had gotten the idea that he could help clean up the county, possibly some of the owners could collect insurance, but maybe sometime someone would catch him and he would be killed in the act and his family would stand to collect somewhere around $30,000 and their problems would be over.

Q. Did he describe to you how he started these fires?

A. Usually with old newspapers or prairie grass, or cardboard boxes, and he said that the mixture in the cans was oil and gasoline, or powersaw fuel that he used.

Q. All right. Did he say anything about these particular containers, People's Exhibits Nos. 14 and 15, regarding these fires?

A. Yes, sir. He explained that these were the last containers that he had used.

Q. All right, now, did he give you any names of any place other than Carl Pence?

A. He gave me the name of the first one, but I can't recall ...


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