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In Re S.m.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOSE VASQUEZ, Judge, presiding.


On April 28, 1978, the minor respondent, then 14 years old, shot and killed two teenage boys and wounded two others in the parking lot of the high school which the boys attended. A petition for adjudication of wardship was filed charging him with the murder of Michael Truppa and Robert Paulish, with aggravated battery upon Michael Gale and Russell Peterson, and with unlawful use of a weapon. Prior to trial the respondent pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a weapon. Following trial he was adjudged delinquent for the commission of two counts of voluntary manslaughter and two counts of aggravated battery. A dispositional hearing was conducted and the respondent was committed to the Illinois Department of Corrections. He appeals, contending that (1) the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not acting in self-defense; and (2) the trial court's dispositional order was contrary to the weight of the evidence or an abuse of discretion.

The State called 12 occurrence witnesses, all of whom were students at the high school at the time of the occurrence. The respondent also testified concerning the incident.

On the night in question there was a dance at the high school. The respondent did not attend the dance. Rather, he invited Barbara Siemasko, Sue Pederson, and Mark Keifer to his home. The four youths ate pizza and watched television until 9 p.m.

At about 9 p.m., the respondent told his friends that he had seen many raccoons at the DesPlaines River that afternoon. He asked Keifer whether he wanted to hunt the raccoons. Keifer stated that he did not want to go because he had a track meet the following day. After some discussion Keifer agreed to go along. The respondent then obtained a gun from his room. He strapped it on with a holster and covered it with a jacket.

The four youths left the respondent's house at approximately 9:45 p.m. They walked to Keifer's house where the respondent and Keifer went inside to look for a flashlight to use while hunting. The boys then walked the girls to the high school so that the girls could call their relatives for a ride home.

The victims did not attend the high school dance either. Preceding the incident they played games at a bowling alley, drank beer in the Forest Preserves, and stopped to eat at a fast food restaurant. They then drove to the high school parking lot, apparently to see if any of their friends were there.

According to the State's witnesses, the respondent arrived at the high school at approximately 10 p.m. The dance was almost over. He stood on the sidewalk east of the school auditorium near the southern end of the parking lot, talking to a group of high school students. A little while later a station wagon carrying the victims drove past to the end of the parking lot and turned around. After turning around, the station wagon proceeded back toward where the respondent was talking to the other youths. Some of the State's witnesses testified that the station wagon was headed directly for the respondent at a steady rate of speed. Other witnesses testified that the station wagon would not have hit the respondent or the other youths even if it had not stopped. The respondent yelled "whoa, mother-fucker" or something similar.

Keifer, Siemasko, Pederson and four other high school students testified that after the car stopped the respondent apologized for the remark he had made. Gale was the only witness who testified that the respondent did not apologize. Other witnesses heard talking but were unable to hear what was said.

Gale got out of the station wagon and approached the respondent. The respondent backed away. Gale followed after him. Then the respondent pulled out his gun. Some of the witnesses saw him waving the gun in the air. Other witnesses stated that he cocked the pistol and pointed it at Gale. Gale yelled that the respondent had a gun. While this was occurring Truppa and another youth, Rick Johnson, got out of the station wagon. Some of the witnesses heard the onlookers yelling for Gale to leave the respondent alone.

The respondent continued to back up further into the parking lot. The lot was fenced in. Gale and Truppa followed him. After a while Paulish and Peterson joined Gale and Truppa. The respondent continued to retreat from the four boys but they pursued him. He was walking or running backwards. The other boys threw things at the respondent but missed hitting him. The objects thrown included a flattened tin can and a piece of asphalt. As he backed away the respondent was yelling for Gale, Peterson, Truppa and Paulish to "stay away." The respondent's back was to the parking lot fence. He was facing Truppa, Peterson, Gale and Paulish. They formed a semicircle around him.

The defendant broke through the semicircle and started to run away from the four boys. Four witnesses heard the respondent yell "go get help." These four ran into the school to tell a teacher.

Gale, Johnson, and the respondent each testified that the respondent next fired a shot into the air. Peterson did not hear a warning shot. Peterson, Truppa, Gale and Paulish continued to advance upon the respondent.

The State's witnesses related four versions of the events that followed. Gale testified that he and the three other boys were running after the respondent. The respondent had his back to them. Peterson caught up along the respondent's right side. Peterson tried to grab the respondent and he reached for the respondent's gun. The respondent turned to his right and shot Peterson, who was about five feet away. The respondent continued turning to the right, shooting Truppa, Paulish and Gale in rapid succession. ...

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