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04/13/87 the People of the State of v. Larry Webb

April 13, 1987





506 N.E.2d 801, 153 Ill. App. 3d 1055, 107 Ill. Dec. 58 1987.IL.494

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Williamson County; the Hon. Robert Howerton, Judge, presiding.


Justice Welch delivered the opinion of the court. Jones, J., concurs. Presiding Justice Karns, Dissenting.


Following a jury trial in Williamson County, defendant Larry Webb was found guilty of criminal sexual assault. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 12-13(a)(3).) On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erred in allowing the State to present evidence of defendant's confession because the State failed to present sufficient independent corroborating evidence that the crime had been committed. We affirm.

The following facts were adduced at trial. On June 24, 1985, at 8:50 p.m., the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services received a tip from an undisclosed source on its Springfield hotline that defendant was sexually abusing his 13-year-old daughter Melissa. The DCFS agents had 24 hours to respond to the call with a face-to-face investigation. The following day, DCFS supervisor Sue Selock and investigator Nancy Sorrels visited defendant at his home. At that time, defendant was at home with his two children from a previous marriage, Melissa and Michael. Upon arrival, the agents identified themselves and explained their visit to defendant. They also handed defendant a formal notification letter. Defendant agreed to talk to Selock and to allow the children to be interviewed by Sorrels.

Selock talked to defendant in her car. Initially, defendant denied having had sexual relations with his daughter. Selock then informed him of the hotline report which said that he would take Melissa into his bedroom, undress her, lie down on top of her, and have sexual intercourse with her. Defendant again denied the allegation but asked if the matter would be dropped if he admitted the charge. Selock replied no, but before she could elaborate on the response, defendant admitted that he had sexual relations with Melissa on June 24, 1985. Selock stated that defendant agreed to make a statement. She then wrote down what defendant said and then he signed it.

Melissa was then taken to the emergency room at Marion Memorial Hospital and examined by Dr. Urduja Pulido, an obstetrician and gynecologist. Dr. Pulido performed a detailed examination of Melissa's head, neck, breasts, chest, abdomen, legs and pelvic area. Dr. Pulido found no external injuries but observed black and blue marks around the area of the vagina and also observed a small amount of white, milky fluid near her vaginal opening. Dr. Pulido would not speculate regarding the cause of the bruises around the pelvic area. A sample of the milky fluid was taken and analyzed. The test results did not detect any sperm or semen. Dr. Pulido stated that if intercourse had occurred earlier in the day she would have expected to find dead sperm. A blood test for venereal disease and a pregnancy test returned negative.

During Dr. Pulido's examination of Melissa's vagina, she found the hymen intact and not torn. She did find the hymen to be stretched but did not find any evidence of injury that would indicate penetration. However, in her experience, she also stated that she would not expect to be able to insert one finger into the vagina of a 13-year-old girl but, in this case, she was able to insert one finger "slightly easier than the usual." She could not give an opinion regarding whether Melissa had been abused. In her opinion, it was unlikely that the hymen would remain intact if intercourse had occurred and it was also unlikely that no sperm would be present after intercourse.

After Selock's interview with defendant, she arranged for Detective Robert McCluskey to interview defendant. However, defendant did not want to see Detective McCluskey. He went later that afternoon to the Williamson County sheriff's office and met with Sheriff Harry Spiller. Defendant told Sheriff Spiller that he was in trouble and asked to talk to him. Sheriff Spiller took defendant into his office. In response to Sheriff Spiller's questions regarding his problem, defendant explained to Spiller about the DCFS investigation. Defendant told Sheriff Spiller that he thought Melissa had called the DCFS hotline and that he did not know what was wrong with him but that he had had sexual relations with his daughter. At that time, Sheriff Spiller told defendant to "shut up" because the police had not read him his rights. Sheriff Spiller then went to find Detective McCluskey.

Detective McCluskey came to the sheriff's office and soon thereafter informed defendant of his Miranda rights. He then asked defendant to sign a waiver of rights form. After defendant complied and signed the waiver form, he confessed to having had sexual contact with Melissa on June 24. Defendant told Detective McCluskey that while he was in the living room, Melissa entered wearing a night-gown. He then took her into his bedroom, got in bed, undressed, and had intercourse with her. At Detective McCluskey's request, defendant dictated a written statement. After defendant read the statement over, he signed it.

The victim of the crime, Melissa, was living with her mother at the time of trial. Although she had been subpoenaed to testify, she did not appear. The State informed the court that it had decided not to call Melissa in order to prevent her from suffering the trauma of relating the story again.

Prior to the introduction of any evidence of defendant's statement, the trial court heard arguments outside the presence of the jury regarding whether enough evidence of the corpus delicti had been presented to allow evidence of defendant's confessions. The trial court ruled that the statements were admissible. At the close of ...

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