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03/30/88 the People of the State of v. Linda Crow

March 30, 1988





521 N.E.2d 594, 168 Ill. App. 3d 744, 118 Ill. Dec. 312 1988.IL.463

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Randolph County; the Hon. Carl H. Becker, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE WELCH delivered the opinion of the court. HARRISON, P.J., and KARNS, J., concur.


Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Randolph County, defendant Linda Crow was convicted of the murder of her husband. She was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 35 years. She raises three issues on appeal: (1) that she was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) that the trial court erred in denying her motion for automatic substitution of Judge; and (3) that the trial court considered improper factors in sentencing her.

At approximately 1:10 p.m. on December 21, 1981, the decedent, Robert Crow, was found dead in the upstairs bedroom of the home he shared with defendant and her three children. He had been shot twice with a .38 caliber revolver. One shot had entered the decedent's back at the right shoulder and exited through the right arm. The fatal shot had entered the decedent's lower back, severed the spinal cord and the abdominal aorta, and lodged in the left thigh. This shot caused instantaneous paralysis from the waist down and death probably ensued within one minute. For a portion of that minute, decedent would have had some upper body strength and mobility.

An autopsy revealed a partially digested greyish-white pasty material in the decedent's stomach, which could have been a doughnut, and fragments of a green pickle. Decedent had eaten a doughnut between 7:01 and 7:24 that morning. Fixed lividity was present when the decedent was found. Based upon the state of digestion and the fixed lividity, the time of death was established as between 9 and 10 a.m. on December 21, 1981.

The bedroom in which decedent was found was in disarray. The body was underneath a mattress and box spring. The bed had been moved across the room and was blocking entry through the main door to the bedroom; entry was gained through an adjoining bedroom. The legs of the decedent protruded from underneath the mattress and box spring. When found, decedent was lying on his back. The pathologist testified that from the position of decedent's legs, it appeared he had been on his stomach, but that he had flipped himself over after the fatal shot.

The drawers of one dresser had been pulled open and clothing, some of which remained neatly folded, was on the floor. Personal items, including money and jewelry, were undisturbed on top of the dresser. Other valuables remained undisturbed in the bedroom and the rest of the house. A pillow, in a white case, with powder burns and a bullet hole in it, was found lying on the bedroom floor. An expert witness testified that it appeared the pillow had been wrapped around a gun when it was fired. A sheet recovered from the bed appeared to have bullet holes in it and residue around the holes. A bedspread with bullet holes in it was also found in the bedroom. Also on the bedroom floor was a clock showing a time of 9:15. The clock was found unplugged, but was operational. It was usually kept on the headboard of the bed. Two fired bullets were found on the bedroom floor, and one was found embedded in the nightstand.

A .38 caliber revolver, later identified as the murder weapon, was found on a dresser in the adjoining bedroom, partially covered by a blue T-shirt. The gun contained four spent cartridges and two live rounds. The gun had been purchased in September 1981 by defendant as a gift for her husband. The evidence indicated that defendant was proficient with a handgun. A brown pillow, normally found on the living room couch, was found in another of the upstairs bedrooms; the white bed pillow was missing from this room.

All of the police officers who were present at the scene testified that the evidence was not consistent with the commission of a burglary. There was no sign of forced entry to the home and no items of value had been taken or disturbed. A window in a door leading from the basement to the kitchen had been broken by a claw hammer from the basement side. However, there was no evidence that anyone had entered the basement. The only door thereto appeared to be frozen shut and there were no footprints in the ice outside the door. The door also had cobwebs on it which were undisturbed but which would have been broken or stretched had the door been opened. The claw hammer was found neatly placed in a tray in a toolbox near the door.

Although defendant denied that she and decedent had been having marital difficulties, there was a great deal of evidence that the marriage was in serious trouble. Decedent had been involved in a love affair with Anita Strattman, a dispatcher for the Sparta police department, since August 1981. He had told Strattman that he intended to divorce defendant and he and Strattman planned to leave Sparta together after the divorce. He gave Strattman certain personal items and cash because he did not want to lose them in the impending divorce.

Defendant denied that she knew her husband was having an affair. However, in October 1981, she telephoned another dispatcher for the Sparta police department and asked her whether the decedent "was fooling around on her." Defendant told the dispatcher that if she ever caught her husband with another woman, she would kill them both. The dispatcher testified that defendant seemed to be serious about the threat at the time. The same dispatcher testified that defendant's daughter, Sherry, who also worked at the police department, compared the work schedules of decedent and Anita Strattman and pointed out that the two had the same days off. She called her mother and told her about the work schedules. The dispatcher testified that she had a conversation with decedent in which he stated that defendant was so jealous of him that she was driving him away.

On December 11, 1981, defendant telephoned the decedent's mother and told her not to come to Sparta for the holidays because decedent wanted a divorce and the marriage was over. Decedent's mother testified that earlier that fall, defendant had commented to her that there were two dispatchers at the Sparta police department who used to follow the police officers around. Decedent's mother testified that defendant had stated that her daughter, Sherry, knew about the couple's marital problems.

Also on December 11, 1981, defendant met her friend, Michelle Lewis, in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Lewis testified that defendant seemed upset. Defendant stated that her husband had asked her to go away for two weeks and threatened that if she did not leave the house, he would. Decedent would not even let defendant stay the night. Defendant told Lewis that it would be easier for her to handle her husband's death than to live in the same town with him and not be married to him.

Defendant then travelled with her children to the Chicago area and stayed with her sister. The sister testified that defendant did not seem upset during her stay and that her family life was not discussed.

On December 13, 1981, defendant called decedent's mother from her sister's home. Defendant asked if she could come and stay with her mother-in-law, who responded yes. However, on December 14, defendant called her mother-in-law and told her that she and decedent had ...

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