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People v. Gutknecht





Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. John J. Hoban, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Christopher Gutknecht, was charged in an indictment with the offense of residential burglary (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 19-3(a)) arising out of an incident which occurred on January 6, 1982. Defendant filed pretrial motions to suppress statements and physical evidence which were denied by the trial court. A jury in the circuit court of St. Clair County found defendant guilty of the offense charged and he was sentenced to four years' imprisonment. Defendant now appeals contending that: (1) he was arrested on less than probable cause, thereby making his arrest illegal and evidence gathered thereafter inadmissible; (2) his rights to terminate questioning and remain silent were asserted and ignored thereby making his statements thereafter to police a product of involuntary coercion; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to prove the knowledge and intent elements required by the statute.

On January 6, 1982, the complaining witness, 75-year-old Margaret Hilger, was awakened at 3 a.m. by a man standing over her bed with a knife at her throat threatening to kill her. The evidence established that the man gained entry to her studio apartment by removing a window pane and reaching in to unlock the door. Mrs. Hilger was the only witness to the incident. She testified that the intruder wore a ski mask and gloves. He walked about the apartment, strewed her money on the floor, broke her radio, cut the telephone cord, and asked her who she was expecting. At one point he walked into her bathroom where she heard him speak "to somebody that wasn't in there." She said he threw her on the floor and left when he thought he heard a noise in the upstairs apartment, promising to "come back and finish the job if I squealed on him." The intruder left with the window pane he had removed to gain entry.

The investigation began about 11:30 a.m. on January 6. Detectives Rokita and Lindsey went to the apartment complex to interview Mrs. Hilger. There they obtained two cut pieces of her telephone cord and four pieces of window molding from the missing window near her rear door. Mrs. Hilger gave them a description of the intruder as being about 5 feet 6 inches with medium build, wearing what she thought was a knee-length tan sweater. The detectives proceeded to canvass the area knocking on apartment doors and asking other residents about the incident. Finding nothing, they returned to the station.

Detectives Knefelkamp and Boyne resumed the investigation at the apartment complex about 6 p.m. that night. Knefelkamp testified that they had spoken to approximately six tenants not interviewed previously before knocking on the defendant's door. At once the detective noticed the occupant fit the general description given by Mrs. Hilger and also noticed the occupant did not fit the general description of every other tenant interviewed to that time, i.e., elderly, widowed, retired women. Knefelkamp testified that the defendant appeared nervous. He was "[v]isibly shaking, trembling in the voice, hands were shaking, loss for words, such as this." Brief questioning followed with an advisement that the detectives might return after interviewing other tenants.

The detectives did in fact return after observing that defendant's rear door was adjacent to Mrs. Hilger's rear door in the secluded courtyard area around back of the complex. They entered defendant's apartment at which time, Knefelkamp later testified, defendant was visibly more nervous and trembling with stuttered speech. Knefelkamp observed a 10- to 12-inch dagger sitting on a window ledge across the room. "[N]aturally [this] brought to mind the possibility this could have been the item used." At that point it was determined that "we had enough circumstantial things going on around that we better read him his Miranda, * * * [t]his is what I did." Knefelkamp testified he was not placed under arrest but did agree to voluntarily accompany the detectives to the station for further questioning.

At the station the defendant was again given his Miranda warnings. No additional facts were gathered by the police from the time the defendant consented to go to the station to the time he asked to leave and was prohibited from doing so. Both parties agree that it was at this time that the defendant was formally placed under arrest. Therefore, as the State correctly suggests, it is the above-outlined facts and circumstances that must be considered to determine whether the arrest was based on probable cause. Since this is the threshold question upon which defendant's remaining alleged errors are based, we proceed to its disposition first.

• 1 Section 107-2(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 107-2(c)) provides that a person may be arrested without a warrant when a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person arrested has committed an offense. This statutory standard is synonymous with the Federal and State constitutional requirement of probable cause. (U.S. Const., amend IV; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, sec. 6; People v. Wright (1974), 56 Ill.2d 523, 528, 309 N.E.2d 537, 540.) Each case is governed by its own particular facts and circumstances. (People v. Clay (1973), 55 Ill.2d 501, 504-05, 304 N.E.2d 280, 282.) The courts> deal with probabilities in deciding the question of probable cause and are not disposed to be unduly technical. "These probabilities are the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable men, not legal technicians act. Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307, 3 L.Ed.2d 327, 79 S.Ct. 329; People v. Fiorito, 19 Ill.2d 246." (55 Ill.2d 501, 505, 304 N.E.2d 282.) The facts upon which probable cause to arrest is based need not be sufficient to convict (People v. Williams (1978), 62 Ill. App.3d 874, 877, 379 N.E.2d 1222, 1225), but something more than a hunch or mere suspicion is required. People v. Garza (1976), 44 Ill. App.3d 30, 34, 357 N.E.2d 1264, 1268.

The State has argued that the officers' reasonable belief that the defendant had committed the crime was based on the following facts: defendant fit the general description of the burglar; defendant was the only resident of the apartment complex fitting that description; defendant's rear door, located in a secluded area, was immediately adjacent to the victim's rear door; defendant was extremely nervous at the first interview with the detectives and more nervous upon their return for further questioning; and defendant was in possession of a knife of the same character as that known by the detectives to have been displayed by defendant.

• 2 We do not believe any one of these factors by itself amounts to probable cause. Nor do we believe combinations of any two factors would amount to the same. It is arguable whether any more than two when considered together would cause a reasonable person having such knowledge to believe the defendant committed the crime under investigation. But the existence of probable cause or reasonable grounds for an arrest depends on the totality of facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time of the arrest. (People v. Tedder (1980), 83 Ill. App.3d 874, 404 N.E.2d 437.) The actions of a policeman in making an arrest are to be judged by the reasoned considerations of everyday life; and any assessment of the reasonableness of the officer's conduct should take into consideration the responsibility of the police to prevent crime, to apprehend criminals, and often to act quickly in appraising data before them. People v. Watkins (1960), 19 Ill.2d 11, 166 N.E.2d 433.

• 3 A composite picture was forming gradually from successive bits of information in the officers' minds. Upon first seeing defendant the detectives were immediately aware that his general height, build and gender matched those of the burglar described by the victim. He was oddly out of place living in a complex otherwise occupied by elderly women only. His physical proximity to the scene of the crime, his apartment's proximity to the scene of the crime and his availability to undetectable access to the scene of the crime were factors observed by the detectives. He appeared extremely nervous when interviewed. He appeared more nervous when interviewed again. The knife observed inside his apartment was known by the detectives to be of the same character as that used in the burglary. While defendant is constitutionally guaranteed freedom from unreasonable seizure, he is not immune from seizure. This right has been defined in terms of whether the arresting officer had a reasonable belief that the person seized committed the offense. We are of the opinion that these facts constitute reasonable grounds for the arresting officer to believe that at the time the arrest was made, the defendant burglarized Mrs. Hilger's apartment.

In this regard, Brown v. Illinois (1975), 422 U.S. 590, 45 L.Ed.2d 416, 95 S.Ct. 2254, Dunaway v. New York (1979), 442 U.S. 200, 60 L.Ed.2d 824, 99 S.Ct. 2248, Taylor v. Alabama (1982), 457 U.S. 687, 73 L.Ed.2d 314, 102 S.Ct. 2664, and People v. Townes (1982), 91 Ill.2d 32, 435 N.E.2d 103, can be distinguished. In those cases, lack of probable cause was a stated premise from which it was determined that evidence gained subsequently was inadmissible. While the circumstances of the instant case may indicate that the detectives interrogated the defendant in the hope of obtaining additional information about the burglary, they do not, in our view, indicate an improper "`quality of purposefulness'" as an "`expedition for evidence'" in order to obtain sufficient evidence upon which to predicate the probable cause necessary for an arrest. (Dunaway v. New York (1979), 442 U.S. 200, 218, 60 L.Ed.2d 824, 839, 99 S.Ct. 2248, 2259, quoting Brown v. Illinois (1975), 422 U.S. 590, 605, 45 L.Ed.2d 416, 428, 95 S.Ct. 2254, 2262.) In fact, it appears that the arrest was made without any additional evidence.

Defendant's second alleged error relates to his right to terminate questioning and remain silent. About an hour after arriving at the police station and while talking to Knefelkamp and Boyne in an interrogation room the defendant indicated that he wanted to go home. Knefelkamp refused the request believing that the defendant "showed signs that he was thinking about wanting to talk about something [and] [f]rom my experience, you just know those people have got something they want to divulge to you." Shortly after this refusal, Knefelkamp testified, the defendant asked if he could be alone with Knefelkamp. Boyne left the room. The defendant thereafter gave an incriminating oral statement. According to Knefelkamp, the defendant stated that the previous evening he had consumed alcohol, LSD and amphetamines and that their combined effect "wiped him out." He described to Knefelkamp a similar type situation in which he had been involved in Effingham sometime before. He said he had been through a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. "He advised that he did have a problem, he did need help, that he didn't want to tell me for fear of it being prejudicial to this particular incident, if in fact he had done it, which he stated he couldn't really remember * * *. He said it was very possible that he could have done it, but he really couldn't say for sure, because in his words he was wiped out." Another request to leave was apparently made by the defendant in order that he might get his thoughts together and return in the morning to give a written statement. Knefelkamp responded that there would be further investigation and that the defendant had said enough to warrant holding him for additional investigation. Defendant was jailed.

The next day, the police secured defendant's consent to search his apartment. They seized physical evidence including a beige pajama top and a window pane. The pane was found in a closet between a chest of drawers and the wall of the closet. Upon examination, the police ...

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