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05/19/88 the People of the State of v. Willie Frank Mcvay

May 19, 1988





524 N.E.2d 635, 170 Ill. App. 3d 443, 120 Ill. Dec. 605 1988.IL.791

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. John R. DeLaMar, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the opinion of the court. McCULLOUGH and SPITZ, JJ., concur.


The Champaign County grand jury indicted the defendant, Willie Frank McVay, Jr., for the stabbing death of his wife in violation of section 9-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1), (a)(2)). After a bench trial, defendant was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to a term of 30 years' imprisonment. The issues on appeal are: (1) whether defendant's murder conviction should be reduced to voluntary manslaughter because the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the homicide was not the result of sudden and intense passion; and (2) whether defendant was denied effective assistance of counsel. We affirm.

Since defendant has raised an issue of reasonable doubt it is necessary to present a detailed recitation of the facts.

On the morning of February 8, 1987, defendant went to the house of his longtime friend, Lawrence Armour, to do odd jobs. That day there was no work to be done, but defendant remained at the house to talk and drink. Around noon decedent came to Armour's house to talk briefly with her husband. Later defendant told Armour he wanted to move out of decedent's house. Defendant indicated that if Armour did not find him a place to stay "something was going to happen." At approximately 6 or 7 p.m. defendant went home.

Around 7 p.m. two high school students saw a car, later identified as defendant's, hit the guardrails on the I-72 overpass at Duncan Road before it hopped the guardrail and landed in a ditch. Defendant and decedent were the only occupants of the car. Decedent was found face down on the floorboard of the backseat. Her shirt was wrapped around her head, she was covered with blood and appeared to be dead. Defendant, while drifting in and out of consciousness, made several inquiries about his wife. There was no broken glass at the scene of the accident.

The police who searched the McVay residence reported that the kitchen and living room were in disarray and covered with blood. A pot of beans was apparently thrown on the living room couch. The lights, television set, VCR and a burner on the stove were turned on. A broken kitchen knife blade was found on the kitchen floor and a serrated knife was lying on the counter.

Defendant gave the police two different stories explaining that his wife was stabbed by home invaders while he was in the bathroom. Finally, defendant admitted he had stabbed decedent after she threw a pot of beans at him and attacked him with two knives. Defendant said he was taking her to the hospital when the car accident occurred.

At trial defendant testified he arrived home on February 8 later than expected because he had car trouble at Armour's house. He said he kissed his wife and she asked if he wanted dinner. He got a beer and went to the living room to watch TV. Defendant said decedent did not seem angry at that time. However, while defendant was watching TV, decedent came out of the kitchen with a pot of beans and threw it at defendant. Defendant avoided being hit by the pot and asked her what was wrong. Decedent said she was tired of him staying out all night. Defendant testified decedent went back to the kitchen and returned swinging a knife at him. Defendant said she cut him on the upper left arm and forearm and stabbed him in the stomach. Defendant displayed his stomach wound to the court. Defendant said he grabbed the knife by the blade to defend himself and cut his left hand and broke the knife blade in the process. He threw the knife blade on the living room floor.

Next, decedent went back to the kitchen, armed herself with a long, serrated knife and swung the knife at defendant wildly. Defendant remembered taking the knife away from her but could not recall cutting or stabbing her. Defendant said the next thing he realized he was lying on top of decedent on the kitchen floor and she was bleeding. Defendant did not call an ambulance but decided to take decedent to a hospital himself.

Defendant explained he initially lied to the police because he was still sedated from the drugs that were administered at the hospital and he was afraid the police would not believe decedent attacked him with the knives. Defendant insisted he had no reason to kill his wife. He and decedent did not ever have physical confrontations. When they were having marital difficulties defendant would move out for awhile.

Kathy Gilliland, the emergency room nurse who treated defendant, testified on rebuttal for the State. She denied that defendant had a stomach wound when she first checked his body. However, she observed a doctor make an incision and insert a catheter into defendant's abdomen as part of a standard procedure for trauma patients. The only other injuries she noted were some superficial abrasions on defendant's left arm and shallow wounds on the fingers of his right hand. These wounds did not require dressings and there was no active bleeding.

Dr. Yue T. Ho, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on decedent's body, testified decedent was stabbed 66 times on her face, neck, trunk and extremities. He measured the length, width and depth of each wound to determine its source. Dr. Ho described several wounds with irregular margins which he said were inflicted by an irregularly edged object like the serrated knife that was found in the McVay house. The wounds with clean-cut margins were inflicted by an object with a sharp, straightedge like the broken knife blade also found at the McVays'. Dr. Ho did not compare the knives recovered from the house with the wounds inflicted on decedent's body. The doctor insisted he was certain the wounds on ...

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