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People v. Linscott

OPINION FILED AUGUST 7, 1985.

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

v.

STEVEN PAUL LINSCOTT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Adam N. Stillo, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE RIZZI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant, Steven Paul Linscott, was found guilty of murder in a jury trial, and he was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He contends that as a matter of law, the State did not prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We agree, and we reverse the judgment of conviction.

The victim, Karen Anne Phillips, 24 years old, lived alone in a studio apartment in Oak Park. On Friday, October 3, 1980, she attended nursing school at Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago. A classmate drove her home after class adjourned. Phillips then went to Kriya Yoga Temple in Chicago, where she was studying to be a swami. Phillips returned to her apartment about 10:30 p.m., at which time a friend, Helen Palella, telephoned to arrange a shopping trip for Saturday.

On Saturday, about 1 a.m., Phillips' next door neighbor, Mohammed Azedejn, heard pounding noises coming from Phillips' apartment. Azedejn knocked on Phillips' door and the noise ceased, but no one responded. After Azedejn returned to his apartment, the pounding noise resumed and then stopped.

Early Saturday afternoon, when Phillips did not show up for her shopping trip with Palella, Palella's husband went to Phillips' apartment to see if she was all right. When he failed to receive any response at the apartment, he contacted the Oak Park fire department. Shortly thereafter, fireman discovered Phillips' body in her apartment.

Oak Park police investigated the crime. They found Phillips' body lying face down on the floor with numerous wounds and abrasions. The body was naked except for a nightgown which was pushed up around the neck. The decedent's fingers were pressed together to form a hand signal, which in the Kriya Yoga religion signifies that the person was accepting death and seeking peace.

In addition, the police found foreign hairs in the decedent's hands, pubic region and on the carpet. Hair strands, blood samples, and vaginal, rectal and oral swabs were taken from the body. There was no evidence of a forcible entry into the apartment. A tire iron, encrusted with blood and hair, was found in some bushes outside the apartment. All of the evidence obtained by the investigating police officers was sent to the crime laboratory for analysis. Later, an autopsy revealed that the death was caused by a combination of beating and strangulation.

Defendant, 26 years old at the time of the occurrence, is a Bible student at Emmaus Bible College in Oak Park. He lives, with his wife and two children, a few houses from the decedent's apartment. Previously, defendant attended the University of Maine for two years and then joined the United States Navy. There, he became a radioman, and after background investigations, he was granted a top secret clearance. After an honorable discharge in March 1979, the Linscotts lived in Maine. That fall they moved to Chicago, where defendant entered Emmaus. They spent the following summer in Maine and then moved to Oak Park a month before the occurrence. There is no criminality in defendant's history, and he had never been arrested before this occurrence.

With respect to the present case, on Friday, October 3, 1980, defendant's wife went to bed at 10 p.m. She does not know when defendant went to bed. However, she arose during the night and again at 6 a.m. to attend the children. On both occasions, defendant was sleeping in bed. On Saturday, area residents were questioned by the police regarding the murder. Defendant was told by the police that if he remembered anything unusual, "no matter how silly it might seem," he should report it to the police.

On Sunday, defendant told someone who worked in the building where he lived that he dreamed about a murder on Friday night. This person thought that defendant should contact the police about his dream. On Monday, defendant had a discussion with his wife about a newspaper account of Phillips' murder and about his dream. Defendant's wife thought that he should tell the police about the dream if he thought it might be helpful to the police.

After the discussion with his wife on Monday, defendant telephoned the Oak Park police and said that he had dreamed about a murder on the same night as the murder that had been reported. Defendant was told to write an account of his dream and that the police would contact him later. That evening, two police officers went to defendant's residence. They read defendant's account of the dream, and one of the police officers asked defendant why he had not described the murder weapon. According to the police officer, defendant had stated in the unrecorded telephone conversation that evening that defendant thought the murder weapon was a blunt object that looked like a tire iron. Defendant denied that he referred to the murder weapon as a tire iron, and he told the police officer that he had not described the weapon as a tire iron in his written account because he was uncertain what the object was in his dream.

Defendant told the officers that in his dream a man bludgeoned a woman to death. The man in the dream was approximately 20-30 years old, had straight blond hair, was light complected, had a somewhat husky build, and was approximately 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall. He was wearing brown trousers and a terry-cloth shirt with two or three stripes across the chest. In the first stage of the dream, the attacker was quiet and easygoing, but defendant noticed a change come over the person. Defendant then awakened, tried to shake off the dream and fell back asleep. His dream continued with the man striking the woman on the head while she was lying or crouching on the floor. The victim had an air of acceptance even though she did not expect the attack, and she did not offer much resistance.

After hearing defendant recount his dream, one of the police officers noticed similarities between defendant's physical appearance and the physical characteristics of the attacker who appeared in defendant's dream. Defendant has straight blond hair, a light complexion, and a somewhat husky physique. He is just a bit under 6 feet tall. After concluding the interrogation, the police officers requested defendant's cooperation in the investigation, and defendant agreed.

Two days later, one of the police officers telephoned defendant and asked him to go to the police station. When defendant arrived at the police station, he was wearing a light colored terry-cloth shirt with a light colored stripe on a dark colored sleeve. He was taken to a ...


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