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People v. Wilson





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. Donald D. Courson, Judge, presiding.


The defendant, David R. Wilson, appeals following a jury trial in Peoria County which found the defendant and his brother, William L. Wilson, guilty of murder, felony murder and armed robbery. The jury further determined that the death penalty should not be imposed on either defendant. The trial court sentenced the defendant to natural life imprisonment for the felony murder conviction and a consecutive sentence of 60 years' imprisonment for armed robbery. The State has since conceded that the defendant's conviction and sentence for armed robbery must be vacated as being a lesser included offense of felony murder. People v. Abrams (1982), 109 Ill. App.3d 901, 441 N.E.2d 352; People v. Devine (1981), 98 Ill. App.3d 914, 424 N.E.2d 823.

The defendant presents the following issues for review: (1) whether the trial court properly denied the defendant's motion to suppress statements made and evidence seized following his arrest without a warrant which allegedly lacked probable cause; (2) whether the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing the defendant to natural life imprisonment.

At the hearing on defendant's motion to suppress, the evidence indicated that during the late afternoon of October 31, 1983, Marion Wood was found dead of multiple stab wounds at the Bi-Sel Novelty Store in Peoria. There were footprints from a tennis shoe in the blood. A man who lived in the building in which the shop was located found the victim's body about 4 p.m. The police arrived at the scene around 4:30 and found that the body was still warm.

One of the investigating officers, Detective Dale Whitledge, testified that he talked with Herman Capshaw, a private citizen, at the police station on November 1, 1983. Capshaw indicated that he had arrived at the novelty store between 2:30 and 3 p.m. on October 31 and left about 3:30 or 4 p.m. At one point while Capshaw was in the store, Wood waited on two men who were looking at television sets. The men described by Capshaw matched the physical characteristics of the defendant and his brother. The two men bargained with Wood over a television set but left the store without making a purchase, but they told Wood that they would return before closing time, which Wood told them was 4:30 p.m. After the two men left, Wood told Capshaw that it was a shame someone so young, referring to one of the men, had been in prison.

The police learned from a Mr. Burns that Wood was alive and behind the counter in the store just before 4 p.m. on the afternoon he was murdered.

Additional investigation led Whitledge to talk with Evelyn Wood, the mother of the defendants, at the Pour House Tavern, which was approximately 50 feet from the novelty store. Mrs. Wood told the police on November 1 that she had just spoken with Cheryl Wilson, William's wife, that morning and that apparently William had come home the night before with blood all over his clothes and a severe cut on his index finger. According to Evelyn, William told his wife that he was injured fighting some black men who had raped a white girl on Main Street in Peoria. There was no record that either the defendant or his brother had reported the incident to the police, nor did the rape complaint mention the intercession of the defendant or his brother. The police had no suspect in the rape at the time. Mrs. Wood told the police that her sons had been in trouble before. Mrs. Wood further indicated that at one time she had been married to the decedent's nephew and that the defendants knew the decedent.

The bartender at the tavern told Whitledge that the defendant and his brother had been in the bar on the day of the murder from approximately 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and that they had been drinking beer.

When Whitledge left the tavern on November 1, he was approached by Richard Curtis, an employee of a Firestone store in the area, and was told that Curtis had seen two men matching the defendants' descriptions walking side-by-side down an alley on the afternoon of the murder between 3 and 3:30 p.m. One of the men had a wallet with a chain and a knife in a sheath. Mrs. Wood had just told Whitledge that the older brother, the defendant, carried a chain-type wallet with a knife in a sheath.

When Whitledge returned to the police station, he reported the results of his investigation to his supervisor, who told him that the defendant's fingerprints had been matched with a fingerprint found at the scene of the murder. In addition, the owner of the shop later told the police that a knife was missing from the glass display case which the police found to have been left open 3 to 4 inches on the afternoon of the murder.

The officers believed that more than one assailant was involved in the murder, since not only had several people seen the victim and the men in the shop and the immediate area on the afternoon of the murder, but the victim had a large number of wounds both to the front and back of his body.

Before arresting the defendant and his brother, the police secured their mug shots from prior arrests which matched the descriptions given them by their mother and various witnesses at or near the scene of the crime.

• 1 In addition to the foregoing prearrest information obtained by the police in their investigation, it was apparent that exigent circumstances required that the police act quickly to apprehend the persons who had murdered the decedent. The evidence obtained at the scene of the crime indicated that the attack had been a vicious assault, with multiple stab and slash wounds on the victim's body, face and head. The victim's throat had been slashed and he had been stabbed in the eyes. Certainly the police could reasonably have concluded that the assailants were armed and dangerous. While it may have been preferable, in hindsight, once they discovered that the defendant's fingerprint had been found on the glass display case at the scene of the crime, to pause and conduct a photographic lineup with Mr. Capshaw and the other witnesses in the area before arresting the defendant and his brother, it is no less clear that the trial court properly determined that at least probable cause existed for the defendant and his brother's arrest.

• 2 It must be remembered that it is not necessary that the information available to the police prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to justify an arrest. (People v. Coleman (1977), 50 Ill. App.3d 1053, 364 N.E.2d 742.) Practically speaking, both the trial court and this court are reviewing the officer's conduct after the fact, and a determination of whether probable cause existed must likewise be based upon the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable men, not legal ...

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