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People v. Lightning





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


Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of two counts of murder and two counts of armed robbery of Benjamin Cantrell and Francis Cantrell (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a) (3) and 18-2). He was sentenced to two terms of 40 to 80 years for murder and two terms of 20 to 80 years for armed robbery, the sentences to run concurrently. On appeal the issues presented for review are: (1) whether the State proved defendant guilty of armed robbery beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) whether the trial court's sentence was excessive; and (3) whether the trial court improperly entered judgment and sentence on two counts of armed robbery. No issue has been raised as to the sufficiency of the evidence as to the murder convictions.

We affirm.

The defendant and his uncle, Curtis Zackery, were jointly charged by information with the offenses of and armed robbery of Benjamin Cantrell and Francis Cantrell, who were found dead on February 22, 1977, in their home located in the Prairie Shores apartment complex in Chicago. In separate proceedings, Curtis Zackery pled guilty to these charges and was sentenced to concurrent terms of 50 to 100 years for murder and 20 to 60 years for armed robbery.

The first witness for the State was Homer Phillips, a teacher at the school in which the defendant was once enrolled. Phillips testified that on February 20, 1977, at approximately 4:15 p.m. defendant and Curtis Zackery came to his apartment in the Prairie Shores apartment to visit him. They stayed for about 20 minutes, and Phillips was unable to recall what the defendant was wearing but recalled that Zackery wore a dark coat. Zackery was described as being 5 feet 9 inches tall, of medium build, and 20 to 21 years of age.

Elaine Yarling, a resident of the building in which the victims both resided and were killed, testified that on February 20, 1977, between the hours of 4:30 and 5 p.m., she noticed Francis Cantrell on the elevator in the building with two young black men. She was wearing a long purple dress.

Irene Booth testified that she was a fifth floor resident of the building in which the Cantrells resided. On February 20, 1977, she had a party in her apartment between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. She recalled that Mr. Cantrell arrived at the party alone at about 3 p.m. He said his wife was getting dressed and would be up later. Mr. Cantrell stayed at the party until approximately 4:45 p.m. Mrs. Cantrell never appeared at the party.

James Adams, the building engineer, testified that Mr. Cantrell was scheduled to work at 5 p.m. on February 20, 1977, and that he went on duty in place of Cantrell after failing to contact Cantrell by telephone.

Robert Wolock, property manager for Prairie Shores Apartments, explained the working schedules of both Mr. Cantrell and Mrs. Cantrell, employed as building engineer and building clerk respectively, for the apartment complex. Wolock recalled that on Tuesday, after speaking to Adams, he went to Cantrell's apartment to see why they had not reported to work. On the way he noticed that Mr. Cantrell's car, a 1970 Buick LeSabre, which was usually parked in the rear of the building, was not there. Wolock obtained a key and opened the door to the Cantrell's apartment and observed the apartment had been ransacked and saw Mrs. Cantrell lying naked on the blood-stained bed. The apartment was in total disarray, with drawers thrown about, furniture knocked over, and clothing strewn about. The police were called, and Wolock returned to the apartment with the police and observed Mr. Cantrell lying on the floor, his head covered with dried blood.

Officer Daniel Kuciver of the Chicago Police Department saw both bodies and recalled seeing one of Mr. Cantrell's pants pockets pulled out and a frying pan lying near him. There was also a woman's purse and several articles lying on the bed. Officer Kuciver, and his partner, searched the nearby parking lot for Cantrell's automobile, a 1970 Buick.

Officer Roman Kugelman testified that on February 20, 1977, the day of the murders, he issued a speeding citation to Curtis Zackery in the 1000 block of North Ogden Avenue. The ticket was issued at approximately 6:20 p.m. The automobile that was stopped was a 1970 Buick bearing license plates that belonged to the Cantrells.

Evidence technician James Biggers testified as to what he found in the Cantrells' apartment. He discovered on February 22, 1977, among other things, six checks, with the Cantrells' name on them, a woman's purse with its contents emptied on the bed, a set of keys, a plastic bankbook cover, an open folding knife that was covered with blood, and a black panther figurine on the floor. In his search of the apartment Officer Biggers found no United States currency. As to the fingerprints recovered from the articles at the scene, it was stipulated that Curtis Zackery's prints were discovered on one of the checks and on a plastic bankbook cover.

Testimony of Audria Simpson, a vocational teacher at the Juvenile Detention Center school, established that she received a call from defendant on February 23, 1977, and arranged a meeting with him in the lobby of the Audy Home. Defendant confided that he had witnessed the Cantrell murders and that he and his uncle were at the Prairie Shores apartment complex visiting a former teacher, Homer. After leaving Homer's apartment, defendant helped a woman carry her packages, and upon arriving at her apartment, his uncle went crazy. Defendant told her that his uncle slapped the lady and went into a rage. Hearing someone at the door, his uncle directed him to remove the latch and a man entered and defendant's uncle and Mr. Cantrell began to fight. The defendant then hit Mr. Cantrell with a frying pan, noting that his uncle murdered the Cantrells with a knife found in the apartment. After leaving the scene of the murders, defendant and his uncle stole Mr. Cantrell's car, went riding and spent the money.

Simpson advised defendant to contact the police, but defendant wanted to contact his uncle. Defendant and Simpson again met at the Audy Home the following day, February 24, to confer with Chief Smith, the chief of the sheriff's police at the Audy Home. Testimony of William Smith established that defendant told Smith that he was present at the scene of the Cantrell murders, that he had no participation in the murders and that he probably left fingerprints behind. Defendant told Smith that they had gone to the Cantrell apartment for the primary purpose of a "rip-off" and that the situation got out of hand. Defendant admitted that he had hit someone and that ...

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