Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. Michael
A. Orenic and the Hon. Angelo F. Pistilli, Judges, presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE STOUDER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
The defendant, Mark Scheidt, was convicted of the murder of Gary L. Shimerda following a jury trial in the circuit court of Will County. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1).) He was sentenced to a term of 28 years of imprisonment.
During the trial, State witness Debbie Brown testified that on August 2, 1980, at about 10 p.m., she went to the Welcome Inn Tavern with Geri Hooper. The defendant, Gary Shimerda, and Gordon Weitting were also at the Welcome Inn. While in the tavern, the defendant told Brown, Weitting, and another person that he wanted to kill Shimerda because Shimerda knew too much about a burglary. Later, the defendant repeated his threat to kill Shimerda.
The tavern closed at about 2:45 a.m. on August 3, 1980, but the patrons stayed outside for a short time. Then Brown, Weitting, and Shimerda left with the defendant in his car. Brown said she accepted the defendant's offer of a ride home earlier that night when Geri Hooper had to leave. After leaving the tavern, they went back within a few minutes and Weitting took the telephone number of one of the girls standing outside the bar. The four then decided to go to Catfish Days, a festival held in Wilmington, Illinois. On the way to Wilmington, the defendant, who was seated next to Brown, told her he wanted to kill Shimerda, who was riding in the back seat. Weitting was driving.
When they arrived in Wilmington, they learned that Catfish Days was over. They decided to go to a large swimming lake instead, which was called the "ropes." On route to the "ropes," the defendant told Weitting to stop the car. The defendant and Weitting walked around for a couple of minutes and then returned to the car. They stopped again at the "ropes" parking lot and all but Shimerda used the restroom facilities. When they got back in the car, Brown drove.
Brown testified that the defendant ordered her to pull off the road, and she complied. As the defendant stepped out of the car, Weitting told her to get out and pushed her. Weitting and Brown went across the road, approximately 25 feet away from the car. The defendant had taken out the shotgun he had placed between the seat and the front passenger door earlier that night. The defendant walked around the car and opened Shimerda's door, ordering him out of the car. He told Shimerda he did not want to get the car messy. Shimerda would not get out of the car.
The witness said she heard Shimerda say something which sounded like, "I don't deserve it." The defendant ordered him out of the car again. Brown said there was a brief silence and then she heard a shot. The defendant asked Weitting to help him carry Shimerda out of the car and put him in a nearby ditch. At first Weitting refused, but he agreed after a second request from the defendant. Brown said she turned around and saw the defendant and Weitting drag Shimerda from the car and into the ditch. The three then left the area.
On the way toward Joliet, Brown testified that the defendant appeared happy and proud. He kept saying, "Such a man, I'm real cool now." The defendant told Weitting to tell everyone in the "Bud gang," a group of people in Green Tree who drank Budweiser beer, that he was "real cool," but not to tell them what he did.
The defendant removed the shell from the shotgun and threw it out the car window. Before arriving in the area where Brown lived, the defendant told Weitting that he trusted him but he did not know about trusting Brown. The defendant reminded Brown and Weitting not to tell anyone, and then he told Weitting that if he needed anybody taken care of, he should tell the defendant. The defendant explained that he had done it before and could do it again.
Brown testified that she and a friend went back to the ditch later that day to see if Shimerda's body was still there. After seeing it, they went to the Wilmington police department and reported the shooting. Then she took the police to the body.
During cross-examination by the defense counsel, Brown admitted lying to Lynn Jencons, an investigator with the Will County sheriff's police. Brown told Jencons on August 3, 1980, that the defendant dragged Shimerda's body to the ditch by himself. She had told Jencons that the defendant showed his gun to everyone in the tavern, while her trial testimony contradicted this prior statement. No other witnesses at the tavern recalled seeing the gun. Brown had also failed to tell Jencons that the defendant wore a red bandanna.
The defense counsel questioned Brown about the burglary she referred to on direct examination. She stated that the burglary was at the Welcome Inn Tavern. It was common knowledge that the defendant or his brothers burglarized the tavern prior to August 2, 1980. Brown believed that this burglary must have been the one to which the defendant referred. Finally, she admitted giving conflicting statements concerning the position of herself and Weitting at the time of the shooting.
The State also introduced the testimony of other witnesses concerning the location and condition of Shimerda's body. A search of the defendant's car on August 5, 1980, revealed stains and blood in the back seat, as well as a stained T-shirt. Expert testimony established that the blood type was not inconsistent with Shimerda's blood type.
The defendant presented his defense after his motions for a directed verdict and a mistrial were denied. Joe Lopez was the first defense witness. Lopez lived next door to the defendant, who lived with his brother, Richard Scheidt, Gary Shimerda and Richard Cunningham. At about 2 or 2:30 a.m. on August 3, 1980, Lopez said he saw someone get into the defendant's car but it was not the defendant. The person he saw drive off had shorter, darker hair than the defendant and ...