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03/11/88 the People of the State of v. Ralph J. Nau

March 11, 1988





521 N.E.2d 177, 167 Ill. App. 3d 338, 118 Ill. Dec. 109 1988.IL.352

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Bernard E. Drew, Jr., Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE HOPF delivered the opinion of the court. DUNN and UNVERZAGT, JJ., concur.


Defendant, Ralph Nau, was arrested on August 9, 1984, and charged by indictment with the murder of his stepbrother. After being found unfit to stand trial on two separate occasions, defendant filed, among other things, a motion to suppress his inculpatory statements. The State appeals from the trial court order granting defendant's motion and asserts that the order was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. We affirm the trial court.

Defendant lived on an egg farm with his mother and stepfather, Shirley and Ken Gerken, and Dennis Gerken, Ken's son from a prior marriage. Dennis was eight years old but was unable to speak or perform basic functions, such as dressing and undressing or going to the bathroom, by himself. On the evening of August 8, 1984, defendant was in the living room of the family home watching the Olympics on television. Around 8:30 p.m. Shirley undressed Dennis and put him to bed. Later, Shirley, Ken, and Shirley's parents, who were visiting the Gerkens, were watching television in the family room. At approximately 10 p.m., defendant came into the room and said he had heard Dennis crying or making some noise and had gone to check Dennis' room but Dennis was not there. The family looked for the child for about half an hour and then called the Lake County sheriff's department. Around 4:30 the next morning, August 9, 1984, officers from the sheriff's department, acting in response to information provided by defendant, found a fresh gravesite containing Dennis' body. Defendant was arrested and ultimately charged with the murder of Dennis Gerken. Defendant was 29 years old at the time.

During defendant's bond hearing, the State moved for an examination to determine whether defendant was fit to stand trial. The fitness hearing was held on January 16, 1985. Dr. Leo Goldman, a psychiatrist, testified on defendant's behalf that on the basis of interviews with defendant in August 1984 and November 1984, interviews with defendant's mother, and review of police reports, he had initially formed the opinion that defendant was fit to stand trial. However, when the doctor attempted to interview him again in December, defendant walked away and refused to talk. Dr. Goldman indicated that defendant had regressed since he had been in custody and opined that he was not then fit to stand trial.

Joseph Pribyl, a clinical psychologist, also testified for the defense. He had interviewed defendant four times between September 7, 1984, and November 2, 1984, administered various tests, spoken with the court-appointed examiners and defendant's attorney, and reviewed police reports. Pribyl concluded that defendant was marginally fit to stand trial as of the November interview. However, after another interview on January 8, 1985, Pribyl changed his opinion. The psychologist noted that defendant had deteriorated since the November meeting and diagnosed him as schizophrenic, paranoid type. He was of the opinion that defendant was unfit to stand trial.

The parties stipulated to the testimony of Dr. Ronald Baron, a psychiatrist. Dr. Baron had interviewed defendant three times between August 20, 1984, and December 19, 1984. He indicated that defendant's thought content revealed bizarre and psychotic thinking and diagnosed his problem as chronic paranoid psychosis. Dr. Baron concluded that defendant was unfit for trial.

Dr. Werner Tuteur, also a psychiatrist, testified for the State. He had met with defendant one time, on November 12, 1984, for over two hours, reviewed police reports and talked to the State's Attorney. Tuteur diagnosed defendant as suffering from schizophrenia, paranoid type and added that he was psychotic. He maintained, however, that at the time of the interview defendant was fit to stand trial.

All of the experts who testified at his first fitness hearing indicated that defendant suffered from delusions of grandeur and delusions of persecution. The witnesses described numerous bizarre experiences that defendant had related to them, including his perceptions that the government was out to get him and that his lawyers were trying to keep him in jail. Without exception the witnesses testified that defendant had told them of his many involvements with numerous movie stars and well-known singers such as Olivia Newton-John, Cher, Sheena Easton, and Catherine Deneuve. The testimony also showed that defendant had actually made several trips to foreign countries in the belief that he would meet and be with certain of these celebrities who loved him and wanted him to be with them. The trial court found defendant unfit to stand trial and remanded him to the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities .

On January 29, 1986, the State moved for a second fitness hearing, but the motion was denied. The State moved for reconsideration of the denial. This time the motion was granted and a fitness hearing was held on June 18, 1986.

Dr. Vallabhaneni, a psychiatrist from Chester Mental Health Center, testified that he had observed or had contact with defendant on almost a daily basis since the middle of February 1985. Based on this contact, the doctor opined that defendant understood the functions of his lawyer, the court, and the Judge, as well as the nature of the charges against him. He also stated, however, that defendant had a major psychiatric illness, generally called psychosis, with symptoms which included delusions and possible hallucinations. While he could not state with certainty that defendant was or was not a malingerer, Vallabhaneni concluded that defendant had not responded to treatment sufficiently to be fit to stand trial.

Another psychiatrist from Chester Mental Health Center, Dr. Basil Sklan, had seen defendant periodically between February 1985 and October 1985, but saw him weekly and sat down with him monthly for treatment plan meetings after October. The doctor diagnosed defendant's ailment as schizophrenia with active psychosis and indicated that fantasies and delusions were part of defendant's schizophrenia. Defendant had related fantasies about God as well as various celebrities. Sklan did not think defendant was malingering and did not believe his fantasies were voluntary. Rather, the doctor's testimony reflected his Conclusion that, although defendant understood the functions of the various court personnel, his illness prevented him from cooperating with his attorneys. When asked, the witness responded that defendant had been unfit to stand trial the preceding February and was still unfit.

The trial court again found defendant unfit and remanded him to DMH. Defendant then filed a motion to suppress his inculpatory statements. At a hearing on the motion the State ...

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