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People v. Gow





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. MICHAEL A. ORENIC, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied December 5, 1978.

Defendant Chester Gow appeals from a conviction of armed robbery and a subsequent sentence of four years to four years and one day, as a result of such conviction, following a bench trial. Gow was convicted of armed robbery in violation of section 18-2(a) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 18-2(a)).

On appeal in this court, the only issue raised is whether the defendant has been proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, of the crime of armed robbery.

We are, therefore, confronted with the question of determining whether the evidence presented at the trial was sufficient to support the trial court's finding that defendant was guilty of the crime as charged. It appears from the record that on January 24, 1977, at approximately 4:15 p.m., a man approached the check-out clerk at the Country Mart Grocery Store on Dixie Highway in Crete, Illinois. The man placed a few groceries on the counter and then drew a gun on the check-out clerk, Donna Heideman, demanding money from her. The gunman also ordered 16-year-old Brian Leslie, who had been at the counter, to put his hands on the counter. Meanwhile, the store owner, Ronald Olson, entered the store bringing with him a dolly of cigarettes. The gunman pointed the pistol at Olson and demanded his money. Olson pulled his wallet out showing the gunman that there was no money in it. The gunman then took $85 in currency, which Heideman had placed on the counter, and left the store. The robbery had been completed in 3 to 5 minutes.

Witnesses saw the robber get into the passenger side of a white Midas camper (Dodge chassis). Olson had previously observed the camper pulling into the store's parking lot. The camper was driven by a person other than the robber. Olson and Leslie watched the camper as it drove off southbound on Dixie Highway (Illinois Route No. 1), with its passenger side facing the store. Olson also saw the camper's license plate number and told Heideman to write it down, but she was then unable to do so. Olson then told Leslie to write the number down. Leslie said he first wrote 2261RV, but then changed the first 2 to a 4, after reading the number back to Olson and being corrected by Olson. Olson denied he corrected Leslie but said he had read the number twice.

At 4:29 p.m., Illinois State Trooper Martin Steiber received the message that a white Dodge camper, Illinois license plate 4261RV, last seen heading south on Dixie Highway, was wanted in connection with an armed robbery which had occurred at the Country Mart. At approximately 4:35 p.m., Steiber, traveling east on Pauling Road, noticed a vehicle fitting the description given, but the license plate number was 42261RV. It was traveling west on Pauling Road. Steiber turned his squad car around and stopped the camper at approximately 4:38 p.m., roughly nine or ten minutes after the robbery and approximately five miles from the robbery scene. There was no evidence that the trooper had any difficulty stopping the vehicle.

When the vehicle was stopped, defendant was sitting on the passenger side of the vehicle, which had been driven by the only other occupant, James Masterson. Both passenger and driver were arrested.

The record indicates that there were similarities and differences in the descriptions of the robber given by the three occurrence witnesses and, also, about the appearance of defendant as compared with the descriptions given by the witnesses. We have noted the variation in the license number which still contained numbers which actually appeared on the license plate of the vehicle which was stopped. All three occurrence witnesses testified that the robber wore a knit hat, without a brim, but no such hat was found in defendant's possession. It was also stipulated that defendant, at the time of his arrest, was wearing a brown hat, not a knit or pullover. The robber was described by witness Leslie as wearing blue jeans and a red and white checkered coat. Olson described the coat as checkered or plaid with red, gray and black. It was stipulated that defendant was wearing blue jeans and a maroon and white plaid jacket. (Attention is called to the fact that maroon is close to red in the color spectrum). Leslie was also unable to identify defendant's jacket when it was shown to him after the arrest.

Although $85 was taken in the robbery, it was stipulated that defendant had only $40 in his possession at the time of the arrest and that Masterson only possessed $1.60. Olson described the robber to police as weighing 230 lbs. and being 50 to 52 years old. It was stipulated that defendant weighed 190 lbs. and was 44 years old. In addition, each of the three witnesses failed to mention defendant's prominent facial scars. Leslie also testified the camper had a red stripe but it was stipulated that the camper in which defendant was arrested had a green stripe. Neither Leslie nor Olson said anything about the damage to the passenger side of the camper. The camper in which the defendant was arrested was in fact a white Midas camper with a Dodge chassis as the witnesses had described the getaway vehicle.

Olson also told police that the robber's pistol was a .38 or a .45 automatic. A pistol which was found in defendant's camper was a .9 mm Random (automatic).

On January 15, 1977, nine days before the robbery, defendant brought his camper to Anthony Sleeter, an insurance company adjustor. After the adjustor had viewed the damage on the passenger side of the camper, he telephoned Michael Knaak of Midwest Tire located approximately 2 1/2 miles from the Country Mart and said he would send defendant with a camper to Knaak's place of business. It was stipulated that on the day of the robbery, defendant and Masterson went to Midwest Tire at 2 p.m., but left after a short time when they discovered Knaak was not present. It was further stipulated that defendant and Masterson returned to Midwest Tire at 4:30 p.m. the same day but left shortly thereafter after learning that Knaak had not returned.

We note here that 4:30 p.m. was after the completion of the robbery, but before defendant's apprehension.

While defendant was in custody, a photograph was taken of him and placed in a five-photograph lineup. A photographic lineup was shown separately, on January 25, 1977 (a day after the robbery), to Heideman, Leslie and a third person who had come into the store during the robbery. Heideman and Leslie picked defendant's photograph as the robber, but the third person was unable to pick out any photograph. Olson was shown the same ...

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