Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. Angelo
F. Pistilli, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE SCOTT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This appeal is from the circuit court of Will County which following a bench trial found the defendant, Richard Viano, guilty of the offenses of murder and concealing a homicidal death. The defendant was sentenced to a 20-year term of imprisonment for murder and a two-year term for concealing a homicidal death.
On November 10, 1982, Patrolman Kasky of the Crest Hill police department received a telephone call from the defendant, Richard Viano, who informed him that his wife, Jean Viano, was missing.
At the time he placed this call the defendant was 32 years of age and had no criminal record. He was born and raised in the city of Joliet where he graduated from a local parochial grade school and a Catholic high school. He continued his education, graduating with a degree in accounting from Lewis University, after which he worked for the Federal government, first for the Atomic Energy Commission and later with the Department of Energy. While so employed he returned to school and received a M.B.A. degree from DePaul University. In 1972 he met Gloria Jean Gregorash, whom he married in 1974. Three children were born of this marriage, Michelle in 1976, Christine in 1978, and Mark in 1981.
In 1982 the defendant was earning $40,000 per year. The marital home located in a very desirable area was unencumbered and the defendant and his wife had a modest stock portfolio and cash savings in the sum of $4,500. There was an insurance policy on the life of the wife Jean in the approximate sum of $8,000.
As the result of the missing person report received by the police department, criminal investigator Simenson at approximately 12:30 p.m. called at the Viano home. The defendant informed him that his wife Jean had left home the previous evening at about 7:30 p.m. in the company of three other friends for the purpose of attending a women's club meeting. The defendant expected his wife to return home sometime around midnight, but when his alarm went off at 6 o'clock the following morning he discovered that she had not returned. He first called his mother-in-law, then his sister-in-law, and next the police. The defendant upon further questioning stated that for several months "hang up" calls had been made to his home. He also told the investigator that a couple of months previously his wife received a call from a female Negro who verbally accosted her. The defendant also volunteered the statement that several months ago while he, the defendant, was on a business trip his wife came home and was frightened to find the garage door to their home was open.
At 3:15 p.m. of the same day the victim, Jean Viano, was found dead in the trunk of her automobile. The vehicle was discovered parked in the Bell Tower apartment complex, which is located in a predominantly black area. The victim's purse and jacket were also found in the automobile. No money was found in the victim's wallet.
November 10 was indeed a busy day. At 4:30 p.m. Officer Simenson had a further talk with the defendant. The defendant told the officer that on the preceding evening he had put $30 or $40 in his wife's purse so she would have spending money. He also related further information pertaining to the female Negro caller. The defendant claimed that he had received a phone call from such an individual, who informed him that she was aware of the fact that the defendant and his wife were having problems and that he, the defendant, should keep his wife away from her man. The defendant also told the officer that on the preceding evening he had filled his wife's car with gas, and, based on the amount of gas left, he estimated that the vehicle had been driven 30 or 40 miles.
While the investigation of the homicide of the victim continued, the defendant was aided in caring for his children by the victim's parents, who moved into his home. The doors to the home were barricaded by chairs, dead-bolt locks were installed and the defendant told a neighbor that he saw a stranger walking away from his house after he discovered an open door, a door which was supposed to be closed. A general atmosphere of fear and apprehension was created by the defendant as far as the security of his home was concerned.
During the investigation the police were informed by a neighbor of the defendant that there was a light on in the defendant's home at 12:30 a.m. on November 10, 1982. The police also discovered that the victim was seen in the garage of her home on November 9. The defendant was informed by the police on November 18, 1982, that they knew he had not been working overtime as he had told his wife because overtime was not available at his place of employment. Defendant was also informed that the police officers were aware of the fact that defendant was having an affair with a woman named Pat Blair. In reply to an inquiry from the defendant, the police informed him that they did not believe him and his story.
Finally, on November 20, 1982, the defendant admitted that he had strangled his wife. He also admitted that he had an affair with Pat Blair that began in April 1982 and ended in September 1982. He told the officers that he last talked to Blair on November 9 when his wife was at the hospital meeting.
The defendant's version of his wife's death was that he went to bed on November 9 at approximately 9:30 p.m.; that the next thing he knew someone was on top of him in his bed; that the bedroom was dark and that he grabbed at the individual and both fell off the bed; that he ended up on top of the individual with his hands around the person's neck; that he held on to the individual for what "seemed to be an eternity"; that he held on until he could not feel anything more; that he then ran into the children's room to check on them, returned to his bedroom, turned on the lights and discovered that he had strangled his wife; that he checked the body for pulse and heartbeat and performed C.P.R. and then realized that his wife was dead; that he then cried for five or 10 minutes and put his wife's wedding rings on her hand; that he then carried the victim's body to her car, placed her in the trunk and proceeded to drive with no destination in mind; that he remembered getting out of the car and walking down Larkin Avenue; that he then went home and tried to sleep. The defendant stated that he did not call an ambulance or the police because he panicked.
The defendant told substantially the same story as above set forth when he testified at his trial. He attempted to explain his wife's actions in jumping on him by stating that she was a practical joker. He explained that once before she had attempted to frighten him by sneaking up on him while he was shoveling snow, that his wife was wearing a snowmobile suit and mask and that he reacted by almost striking her with a snow shovel. He also related an incident that, while on a camping trip, his wife put a rubber snake in his sleeping bag.
Further evidence adduced at trial will be set forth as the same is deemed pertinent to the disposition of the ...