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People v. Argo

OPINION FILED MAY 14, 1985.

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

v.

WILLIAM ARGO, A/K/A BILLY ARGO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. Angelo F. Pistilli, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE HEIPLE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

At 4:58 p.m. on February 26, 1983, the Bolingbrook police department received an anonymous call from a male who reported that he had seen the body of a boy in the creek by Kildeer Apartments. A search of the area was unsuccessful. The police were informed by Mrs. Julia Knowles that her 10-year-old son, Donald Green, had not returned home that evening. The next afternoon, Green's unclothed body was found face down in Lily Cache Creek. Green's clothing was found scattered on the bank nearby. An autopsy revealed a single stab wound to the left chest which penetrated the heart. There was an abrasion on the right scapular area. There were scratches on the buttocks and feces near the anus.

The Bolingbrook police began an intensive investigation. Questioning of young boys in the area turned up the name of John Schwake as a reputed local child molester. One of Schwake's acquaintances among area boys was said to be defendant, Billy Argo. As of March 11, Schwake had not been questioned by the police.

On March 11, Officers Ranum and Steinke went to Argo's mother, Mrs. Robbie Kanizar, and received permission to bring Argo to the station for questioning. The officers sought information on Schwake and others who frequented the area by the creek. Argo, 14 years old at the time, stated that he knew Schwake and that Schwake had once made a sexual advance to him. As the conversation continued, Argo became increasingly agitated and experienced difficulty in speaking. As the officers were about to leave to give Argo time to regain his composure, Argo grabbed Ranum's hand and said something was bothering him. Argo eventually admitted to being present when Schwake molested and murdered Green. He then went to the bathroom and vomited.

When Argo returned to the interview room, he was read his Miranda rights from a preprinted form. He signed the form and initialed each line, indicating his understanding of his rights. Mr. and Mrs. Kanizar were asked to come down to the station. As Billy became calmer he gave a statement containing facts which only someone present at the scene of the crime could have known. Ranum and Steinke related the substance of Argo's statements to the Kanizars.

Investigators Wilkerson and Andalina were called in to interview Argo. Food and drink was offered. Argo indicated he was relieved that he had gotten the story off his chest. Despite the late hour, he remained responsive and alert. Mrs. Kanizar was brought in to hear the story and was told that her son was to be a witness and that she would be informed if charges were to be filed. Argo then gave a tape-recorded statement.

Argo's statement accused Schwake of the molestation and murder of Green with no assistance on his part. Schwake supposedly ordered Green, at knifepoint, to remove his clothing "or else." Green resisted. Green undressed with Schwake's assistance. After forcing Green to perform oral sex on him, Schwake rolled Green over and sodomized him. When he had finished, Schwake rolled Green back over and got back on top of him. Green continued arguing with Schwake. As Argo walked away, he looked back to see Schwake stab Green in the chest. Schwake threw the body in the creek and washed off the knife. Once Argo completed the taped statement he returned home.

On March 15, Andalina and Wilkerson went to the Kanizar residence and received permission to take Argo to the scene of the crime for a reenactment. Steinke and Ranum met the others at the scene. As they walked along the creek, Argo told the officers that Schwake had asked Argo if they "wanted to have some fun with the kid." Argo interpreted this to have sexual implications and answered in the negative. After reenacting the crime, Argo became quiet and reflective. Wilkerson asked him if something was bothering him. Argo responded that when Schwake rolled Green back over after sodomizing him, he told Argo to come over and have Green suck him. Schwake did not threaten Argo, but Argo felt that he should comply. After a minute, Argo got up to urinate in the creek. Argo further informed the officers that after the stabbing of Green, he assisted Schwake in throwing the body into the creek.

After making these admissions, Argo was taken to lunch by the officers. They then brought him to the Will County State's Attorney's office, where Argo repeated his revised story to Chief Felony Assistant Burmila and again to State's Attorney Petka. Argo told them that his story was the truth and that he was willing to testify in court. As of March 15, all concerned considered Argo a witness in the pending case against Schwake. In August and September Argo was brought to the State's Attorney's office to prepare his testimony.

Sometime prior to November 17, an important witness against Schwake recanted her incriminating story and provided Schwake with a strong alibi. The authorities were skeptical of the veracity of this new evidence. Wilkerson thus sought and received permission to take Argo out of school to undergo a polygraph to confirm the truth of his accusations.

Argo was taken to the Department of Law Enforcement in Joliet. The procedure began with the polygrapher, Dennis Luporini, speaking with Wilkerson to learn the details of the case. Luporini then spoke with Argo alone for a while as a pretest interview. After some control tests, Luporini questioned Argo for real. At no time prior to or during the test was Argo informed of his constitutional rights. Wilkerson testified that Argo was not under arrest and was free to go at all times.

Luporini told Wilkerson that some of Argo's answers indicated deception. Wilkerson then went to Argo and indicated that some portions of his story did not appear to be correct. Argo then added new details. When Schwake asked him if he wanted to have fun with Green, Argo responded "maybe," as opposed to "no." He also aided Schwake in removing Green's clothing. As Schwake molested Green, Argo became excited and decided to participate in the sexual activity without prompting from Schwake. Finally, Argo admitted to preventing Green from fleeing and telling on them. It was while Argo was holding Green that Schwake stabbed him. Wilkerson indicated that he'd like to take another polygraph to verify Argo's revised story, but Luporini doubted an accurate reading could be taken given Argo's frame of mind. Wilkerson took Argo home and informed his mother that Argo had not been entirely truthful. He received permission to take Billy out of school the following Monday, November 21, for another polygraph. At some point between the two polygraphs, Wilkerson informed the State's Attorney's office of Argo's additional admissions.

On November 21, Andalina and Wilkerson picked Argo up at school and took him to Joliet. They arrived at 1:30 p.m. Between that time and 4 p.m., Luporini interviewed and polygraphed him. No Miranda warnings were given. After Luporini told Argo that his new polygraph indicated deception, Argo admitted to the stabbing of Donald Green. The officers were called in. At that point, the officers considered Argo not free to leave. He was read his rights from a card and agreed to talk.

His first version of the occurrence had Argo and Schwake's roles transposed from his original account. Wilkerson expressed disbelief, since the police had information that Schwake was not at the scene. Argo then claimed sole responsibility for the crime. Wilkerson observed that the evidence suggested a struggle involving more than two people. Argo then indicated that his companion was Scott Maxwell, a boy who used to live near him. Wilkerson told Argo that Maxwell had already been interviewed and was not near the scene at the time. After some encouragement from Wilkerson, Argo ...


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