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People v. Hobson





Appeal from the Circuit Court of McLean County; the Hon. Keith E. Campbell, Judge, presiding.


Defendant was indicted by a grand jury in McLean county for the murders of Mary and Russell Roughton, two children of the ages of nine and seven years respectively, in violation of section 9-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 9-1); the multicount indictment also charged him with the aggravated kidnaping of the children in violation of section 10-2 of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 10-2); and with three counts of theft of property exceeding $300 in value in violation of section 16-1 of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 16-1). The latter counts alleged theft of a Datsun pickup truck, a Chevrolet pickup truck, and a red Chevrolet motor vehicle. The count concerning the red Chevrolet was severed and the record reveals no disposition of it. Defendant was tried to a jury in the circuit court of McLean county and was found guilty of all the offenses which were submitted to the jury. The State sought the death penalty for the murders, but the jury was unable to find unanimously beyond a reasonable doubt that it should be imposed. The trial court then sentenced the defendant to a term of natural life pursuant to section 5-8-1(a)(1)(c) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 1005-8-1(a)(1)(c)) for the murders of Mary and Russell Roughton; extended term sentences of 30 years each of imprisonment were imposed on the aggravated kidnaping convictions; and five years of imprisonment on each of two theft convictions, specifically, the Datsun pickup truck and the Chevrolet pickup truck.

On appeal defendant raises four principal issues which may be broadly described as: (1) error by the trial court in denying his pretrial motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence; (2) reasonable doubt as to murder and aggravated kidnaping of the children; (3) whether defendant received a fair trial by a jury which was "death qualified;" and (4) the constitutionality of section 5-8-1(a)(1)(c) requiring a life sentence in the case of multiple murders.

The evidence against the defendant, except for the theft of the trucks, was largely circumstantial, and, as so frequently happens in such cases, the record consists of fragments of testimony and exhibits. In an effort to give a coherent narrative, we have rearranged the sequence of the testimony.

Ramona Hauptman, who was also known as Mickey Coyle, was the mother of the victims, Mary and Russell Roughton. The defendant was described as her "step cousin" and had lived with her and the children in the village of McLean from the month of February 1982 through a part of April 1982.

On Wednesday, April 21, 1982, Russell and Mary ate breakfast and were sent by Ramona at about 8:10 a.m. to the post office to pick up the mail. It was an approximate five-minute walk. The children were to return the mail home before going on to school. They did not return from the post office and the police were notified.

On the following day, Thursday, April 22, at about 2:40 p.m., their bodies were discovered in a gravel pit and dumping area which was located about 1 1/2 to 2 miles north of McLean. Nearby was a partially burned blue Chevrolet pickup truck and near the truck were found four pieces of mail and a box of books from a book club, all addressed either to Mickey Coyle or Ramona Coyle. One of the pieces contained a money order receipt from the Bank of Hallandale, Hallandale, Florida, for $25. The remitter was William Boemecke, who testified that he was Ramona's boyfriend and had sent her six separate $25 money orders in an envelope on April 19, 1982.

Medical testimony indicated that death had occurred between 9 a.m. and 12 noon on Wednesday, April 21. Mary had received three blows to her head with a pointed object, two of which penetrated the head and either could have caused death. The wounds had a V-shaped configuration. Russell had received two blows with a blunt object to the head. Neither penetrated but they made a large depression fracture of the skull sufficient to cause death. Another less lethal wound was found on his head and had the same V-shaped appearance as the blows to Mary's head. A pry bar was recovered from the cab of the burned pickup truck. The truck's owner testified that it had been kept in the glove box. The pathologist testified that it could have caused the injuries. After examining the scene, he was of the opinion that it was unlikely that the blows had been inflicted there. Two sheets of plastic material, called "visqueen," were found near the truck; they had apparently been used to roll the bodies of the children down the mound upon which the truck was found.

Following the discovery and removal of the bodies during the afternoon of April 22, the police posted a watch over the area. The geography is not entirely clear from the record, but it appears that a road, known as the McLean/Funks Grove blacktop, runs north out of McLean towards Bloomington. About 1 1/2 to two miles north of the village it is intersected by a gravel road which runs east to the dumping area. Three sheriff's reserve officers were dispatched to this road to keep the curious out. They were in two vehicles, a regular sheriff's squad car and an unmarked car; two reserve officers, Harbison and Cosentino were in the squad car; the third, Arendt, was in the unmarked car. Both cars were pulled into the gravel road, side by side, headed east. They relieved another officer who was there about 7 p.m.

Harbison testified that some traffic passed by on the blacktop during the course of the evening. At about 11:30 p.m. a small truck with a camper top passed by northbound. Harbison's attention was drawn to it because of its slow speed, approximately 10 miles per hour, according to his estimate. About 15 minutes later the same vehicle returned, this time headed south, and again at the slow rate of speed. Harbison testified that he instructed Arendt to follow the vehicle if it came by a third time and obtain its license number.

At about 11:55 p.m. Harbison and the other reserve officers were relieved at the scene by two deputy sheriffs, Springer and Fillmore. Harbison informed them of the actions of the camper. Springer testified that about 12:25 a.m., it now being April 23, he observed a dark-colored Datsun pickup truck with a light-colored "topper" southbound on the blacktop. It slowed almost to a stop at the gravel road leading to the dump and then proceeded down the blacktop about one-quarter of a mile, at which point its brake lights came on, and it again slowed. Springer testified, "Officer Fillmore radioed to the officer that was working in McLean. It was the McLean marshal and Sgt. Kistner of our department. And he radioed what we observed happened."

The McLean marshal was Steven Craig, who testified that he and Kistner, upon receiving Fillmore's radio dispatch, proceeded to the north part of the village and took up positions at a gravel road located there. In due course the pickup truck with the topper came past and Craig pulled onto the blacktop behind it and activated his emergency lights. Several blocks into the village the truck stopped with Craig's squad car behind it. Craig testified that it was his intention to give the driver a verbal warning for failure to dim headlights.

Craig went to the driver's side of the truck to speak to the driver and Kistner took a position on the passenger side. Craig asked for a driver's license; it was produced; and the driver was Hobson, the defendant. Craig told him to step out of the vehicle and then conducted a security pat-down which produced a glass pipe from the left jacket pocket. Craig handed the pipe to Kistner, who had come around to the driver's side.

Meanwhile, Harbison, after being relieved at the scene, had returned to McLean and arrived at the place where the truck had been stopped by Craig. He testified that it appeared to be the same truck which he had observed twice earlier at the dump scene.

Kistner had attended a staff meeting earlier where he had been instructed that if he saw Hobson, he was to ask him to come in to headquarters at Bloomington to speak with detectives. He did so ask the defendant, who indicated that he was willing to go. Kistner then further explained to defendant that it would be necessary to handcuff him for the trip to Bloomington. This was departmental policy since the vehicle did not have a security shield. The defendant then turned about and offered his hands behind his back to Kistner, who placed the handcuffs on him. He was then placed in the back seat of Kistner's vehicle.

Kistner's testimony was that the radio dispatch from Fillmore regarding the pickup truck had arrived at 12:25 a.m. and that the defendant was in the back of his vehicle after being handcuffed at about 12:30 a.m., or about five minutes later. At this time another radio dispatch was received from headquarters that the pickup truck was a stolen one. Kistner also testified that the defendant was at all times cooperative and that he did not ever advise the defendant that he was, or was not, under arrest.

The trip to Bloomington was accomplished without incident and without conversation. Upon their arrival there, Kistner caused the defendant to be seated in the lobby of the building while he informed detectives of his presence.

Defendant was then interviewed at 12:50 a.m. by a special investigator from the Illinois Department of Corrections, Criminal Investigation Divison, Lindsey. Lindsey informed him that he was under arrest for driving a stolen vehicle and administered the Miranda warnings, which the defendant acknowledged and signed a waiver of rights. He admitted stealing the truck and stated that he was enroute to visit his cousin, Mickey Coyle, and became lost. He also gave an exculpatory statement of his whereabouts on April 21 and 22. In substance, he claimed to have spent the day of April 21 in Ottawa and did not leave there until on a 6:30 p.m. bus on April 22, which arrived in Bloomington at 8:30 p.m. He then walked around Bloomington until he took the truck.

The conversation then turned to the disappearance of the children. A detective from the McLean county sheriff's office, Tulle, spoke to the defendant, informing him that the police knew that he had stolen another truck in Pontiac. Tulle stated, "The keys were in the truck weren't they?" The defendant replied, "Yes." He then admitted to being in the vicinity of the children's home in that truck. However, he also claimed to have been on "speed" and "grass" during the preceding four days and had no real recollection of events.

At one point in the conversation, Tulle told the defendant that the police knew that he had been near the children's home and had seen them walking with the mail and "you just picked them up and didn't want to hurt them, just wanted to give them a ride. Right?" The defendant's response was a single nod of the head. He was then advised that the truck stolen in Pontiac had been found together with the bodies of the children. The interview then ended.

From this recitation it can be seen that the State had no direct evidence, save for the equivocal nod of the head during the interview, of the defendant's involvement in either the kidnaping or the murder of the children. It was the State's theory that the defendant committed the offenses with the motive of robbery. To this end, it built a circumstantial case, which we now examine.

Ramona Hauptman, the children's mother, testified that the defendant had lived with her and the children from February 1982 through part of April 1982. On March 31, 1982, she gave him approximately $80 with which to obtain money orders from the post office; he was to bring these back to her for completion; this was done and she filled one out for $56 for payment on a television set and the other for $13 or $14 for a utility bill; she then returned the money orders to him and directed him ...

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