APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Edgar County; the Hon. JAMES
K. ROBINSON, Judge, presiding.
MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied March 14, 1980.
Rebecca Eveland was convicted at bench of both the involuntary manslaughter of her 2 1/2-year-old son and felony theft.
She was sentenced to 18 months' periodic imprisonment for the homicide and a concurrent 18 months' probation for the theft.
But first the rather extensive testimony.
Donna Curl testified that on the evening of March 29, 1978, defendant and defendant's small son, Michael, accompanied her to Glenda Hess' house. Upon arriving, they left to obtain some beer and later returned. They watched television and played with Michael. Several beers were consumed, but Curl did not know by whom. (Hess later testified that the defendant drank some beer that evening.)
Curl stated that she, the defendant, and Michael left the Hess residence around 10 or 10:30 p.m., and she proceeded to take defendant and Michael home. They stopped at Owen's gas station to buy cigarettes and while Curl was inside the station, the attendant told her that defendant was taking her car. Curl turned around and saw her vehicle being driven off towards Preston Road. Curl testified that she had not given defendant permission to take her car at any time. The car was damaged that evening and subsequently repaired.
Robert Vrinza, Jr., testified that he resided on Preston Road and at approximately 11:15 that evening, he and his wife were driving home when he noticed a compact foreign made car, darkish-gray in color, in a ditch on the east side of Preston Road. Defendant emerged from the vehicle and he asked her if she was hurt and if anyone was with her. She replied that her son was with her but she was incoherent regarding his whereabouts. Vrinza searched for the boy but could not find him.
Deputy Sheriff Thomas Eades stated that he questioned defendant at the scene of the accident. Defendant told him that she had let Michael out of the car because she was going to take her own life and she did not want her son to get hurt. Eades traveled two-tenths of a mile north from the point where the car had come to a stop and there found Michael's body. At the hospital where the body was taken, Eades heard defendant say, "I killed Michael, put the handcuffs on me, take me to jail."
P.A. Thomas, a member of the Department of Law Enforcement, testified that there was blood on the driver's door of the car. He told of a small clean area about 2 1/2 inches long that he observed on the lower part of the driver's door frame. If the door was closed, the clean area could not be seen.
Several State witnesses, including Thomas, presented evidence to the effect that after defendant let her son out of the car, he was dragged alongside the vehicle. Thomas testified that he observed tire impressions which began near a private driveway and continued several hundred feet to where the car was found in the ditch. Thomas further stated that several scuff marks appeared near the tire prints indicating that "something had been drug."
Jack Eckerty, a special agent for the Department of Law Enforcement, stated that he interviewed the defendant in her hospital room. Defendant admitted taking Curl's automobile and stated, "I don't know why I did it. I just scooted over underneath the wheel and took off."
Agent Eckerty testified that defendant further informed him that as she drove the vehicle south on Preston Road, she decided to commit suicide. She told him that she let her son out of the car near a private residence and told him to walk toward the house. The child started towards the house but turned around, began crying, and proceeded back towards the car with his arms outstretched. She closed the door and drove away because she could not stand to hear the child cry.
Dr. Mario Stefanini, a pathologist, conducted the autopsy on Michael. Three major findings were present at the autopsy. The first was an anteriorial dislocation of the head, which resulted in damage to centers of major bodily functions, and two hemorrhages between the brain and the lining of the brain. Such damage could occur by repeated hitting of the head over a hard surface. Next was a fracture of the boy's right forearm with surrounding hematoma. Such an injury could occur by violently trapping the arm within a strong grip. Finally, there were lacerations, abrasions, and external injuries over the boy's trunk. Such injuries indicated that the boy "was carried along by a moving object while the right buttock and the left shoulder were in contact with a hard surface."
Edgar County Coroner James Honnold testified that following the accident he spoke with the defendant concerning her reasons for letting her son out on Preston Road. Defendant told him that "I let my son out. I hugged him, let him out of the car and told him to go to the house where the light was on." Defendant then ...