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People v. Mitchell

OPINION FILED MARCH 3, 1981.

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

v.

FRANCIS A. MITCHELL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ANTHONY J. SCOTILLO, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE DOWNING DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied May 19, 1981.

Defendant, Francis A. Mitchell, was indicted for the murder of his former mother-in-law, Frances Krecji. After a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, defendant was convicted of murder and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 35 years nor more than 75 years.

On appeal, defendant raises the following issues: (1) whether he was denied his statutory or constitutional right to a speedy trial; (2) whether the evidence proved him guilty of the murder beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) whether the trial court improperly considered evidence of another crime; (4) whether the length of the sentence was inappropriate; and (5) whether this court erred earlier in reversing the trial court's order quashing a search warrant and suppressing the evidence procured thereunder.

For the sake of brevity and convenience, the chronological facts which relate to defendant's speedy trial argument will be set forth below in the discussion of that contention. Testimony produced at trial will be set forth here.

On June 9, 1973, Frances Krecji (hereafter the victim) was found murdered in her Berwyn home. On that day, defendant was arrested in his Bartlett home and held for the crime.

Defendant's trial commenced on June 7, 1979. He waived his right to be tried by a jury. The State's first three witnesses were Berwyn police officers involved in the case. Officers Michael Oschner and Marvin Ahr, riding in separate squad cars, were directed to the Krecji home at 3622 S. Cuyler in Berwyn by radio call on June 9, 1973. At the scene, the policemen were met by a friend of the victim who had been unable to contact her. The officers found the house to be secured. All windows and doors were locked, with the exception of a partially open window covered by a screen. The Berwyn Fire Department was called for assistance in gaining entry into the house.

A fireman entered the home through the open window by cutting through the screen. He told the officers that the victim was in the house, and let the officers in the front door. The victim's body was found lying on the floor, partially down a stairwell. The victim had several severe wounds to her head and face. The body was lying in a pool of blood, and blood was spattered on the walls. There were no apparent signs of a struggle, nor was there any indication of forced entry into the house. No weapon was found.

While at the house, Ahr answered the phone. The caller identified herself as the victim's daughter, calling from Florida. Ahr was given the name and address of defendant. He called the police department in defendant's village of Bartlett and requested that defendant be arrested.

Berwyn Police Officer Warren Trucksa was sent to the Bartlett station after defendant was taken into custody. He advised defendant of his Miranda rights, and informed him that he was being held in relation to the Berwyn homicide as well as the attack in Florida upon defendant's former wife and father-in-law. Defendant told Trucksa that he was in bed at the time and could not have committed the crime. Trucksa noted that defendant had bruises and small cuts on his hands and arms. Defendant was taken to the Berwyn police station and processed.

Officer Oschner took the victim's body to the hospital. He then proceeded to the Du Page County courthouse, where he was joined by Officer Trucksa and several other policemen from Berwyn and Bartlett. A search warrant for defendant's house was procured. Forced entry was made into the building. The garage contained a 1973 Ford auto. Oschner and Trucksa each noticed blood stains on the car's front seat. Later analysis of these stains showed them to be of the same type blood as the victim, as well as of defendant's former wife. In the house, Trucksa found some clothing and a desk calendar with writing on it. These items were seized.

On the following day, Trucksa transported defendant to the hospital for treatment of the cuts on his hands. Defendant stated that they occurred when he was cutting his lawn with a sickle.

Dr. Edward Shalgous testified that he supervised the autopsy of the victim. She had suffered four distinct blows to the head. The injuries were forcefully caused by a heavy-type object. They were of a type compatible with heavy hammer blows. The autopsy was conducted on the afternoon of June 9, 1973. The victim had died at least 16 and possibly 24 hours prior to autopsy.

Mary Ann Smith, a friend of defendant's former wife, testified to a conversation with defendant held in September 1972. Defendant regretted having been separated from his wife. (At that time they were reconciled.) Defendant told the witness that the victim was the cause of his marital problems. He stated that anyone who interfered in his marriage in the future would be killed by him. Several weeks later, the witness talked with defendant by phone. He was again separated from his wife. He became very emotional and blamed the problems on the victim.

The victim's daughter-in-law testified that in late April or early May 1973, defendant made an unexpected visit to her house. Defendant was divorced from his wife. He told the witness that the divorce had broken his heart. He blamed the victim for causing his marriage to fall apart.

The daughter-in-law last saw the victim alive on June 7, 1973. The next day she was unable to contact the victim. Early in the morning of June 9, 1973, the witness received a call from the victim's daughter, defendant's former wife. After the call, the witness and her husband drove to the Berwyn home. They received no answer to their knocks, and found all the doors locked. Later in the day, the witness called the Berwyn home. A police officer answered and told the witness that the victim was dead.

On cross-examination, the daughter-in-law related an incident told to her by defendant in which the victim refused to allow defendant into her house to visit his child. The victim never allowed defendant into the house following the divorce.

Mildred Mitchell, former wife of defendant and daughter of the victim, testified that she had married defendant in March 1961. They had a son on May 27, 1972. In June 1972, she left defendant for a week and lived with her parents in Berwyn. In September 1972, she spent the month at her parents' new home in Florida. In mid-October 1972, she left defendant and lived with her parents in Berwyn.

Mitchell received calls from defendant after leaving him. He was angry and accused the victim of causing the separation. When the witness returned to her former home to pick up some belongings, she found the locks changed. A key to her parents' Berwyn home may have been left behind by her in defendant's house.

In December 1972, the witness moved to Florida with her parents. She sent defendant drawings, floor plans, and pictures of the house. In April 1973, defendant came to Florida. He attempted to talk his way into the house but was unsuccessful. Defendant later phoned and asked about the sleeping arrangements in the house. The witness explained them to the defendant.

In mid-April 1973, the victim returned to Berwyn to sell the house there.

On June 9, 1973, Mitchell was awakened in the Florida house, being beaten on the head. She ran from the assailant and saw her father leaning against a window with blood running down his head. At that point, she saw that the assailant was defendant. He was wearing gloves and was carrying a "shiny hammer." The witness ran outdoors and defendant fled.

Later, when Mitchell returned to the house, she called the Berwyn home. There was no answer. She called her brother in North Riverside and also called defendant's home in Bartlett. The witness next called the Berwyn police and asked them to check on the victim. Later, she again called the Berwyn house. A policeman answered. The witness told him of the Florida attack, ...


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