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06/16/88 the People of the State of v. Dennis Sperow

June 16, 1988





525 N.E.2d 223, 170 Ill. App. 3d 800, 121 Ill. Dec. 417 1988.IL.946

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. Stuart H. Shiffman, Judge, presiding.


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


The defendant, Dennis E. Sperow, appeals his convictions for murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)), aggravated battery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 12-4(b)(1)), aggravated unlawful restraint (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 10-3.1), and obstructing Justice (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 31-4(a)). In support of his appeal, the defendant claims: (1) he was denied due process of law where the State presented testimony of his convicted codefendant; (2) he was denied effective assistance of counsel where the court failed to appoint new counsel for post-trial proceedings; (3) the court considered an improper factor in aggravation at sentencing; and (4) his conviction for unlawful restraint was improper.

On July 2, 1986, the defendant was charged by information with four counts of murder, one count of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated unlawful restraint, and one count of obstructing Justice. Codefendant Robert Watts was likewise charged. Watts was tried and convicted in a separate trial prior to the defendant's conviction. The charges were based upon an incident which allegedly occurred on June 10, 1986, resulting in the death of Linda Faye Robinson. The defendant's case proceeded to jury trial and on December 18, 1986, the defendant was convicted of the four offenses. On January 16, 1987, the defendant's post-trial motion was denied and defendant was sentenced to terms of 60 years for murder, five years for aggravated battery, four years for unlawful restraint, and one year for obstructing Justice. The defendant filed a timely notice of appeal.

At trial, Robert Watts testified on behalf of the State. Watts had been previously convicted and sentenced for the same offenses. Watts was found guilty of these offenses based upon the theory of accountability. Watts admitted, however, that he had not been completely truthful when he testified at his own trial. Testimony indicated that the State granted Watts immunity from any perjury prosecution for any variances in his testimony during the defendant's trial. Watts further informed the court of a previous conviction for rape in November of 1986.

Watts, who had separated from his wife, was living in Springfield in the spring of 1986. His wife and their three daughters were living in Bloomington. As a result, Watts traveled to Bloomington on a regular basis to visit his daughters. On Mother's Day, in May of 1986, Watts was driving from Bloomington to Springfield when he picked up the defendant, who was hitchhiking. During the ride, the defendant asked Watts if he knew of a place where the defendant could stay. Watts told the defendant he could stay with him and his friend. The defendant told Watts he was a roofer in search of employment.

The defendant remained with Watts thereafter, seeking work intermittently, but unsuccessfully. Watts explained that when he met the defendant, he was living with Joey Bilyeu, a co-worker. The men lived with Bilyeu for approximately two to three weeks. The two men then moved in with Jenny Cook, a friend of Watts. Watts admitted that he initially told Bilyeu that the defendant was his cousin.

On June 9, the night of the incident, Watts worked delivering pizzas from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m. After work, he went to Cook's apartment, where he found the defendant, Cook, and Tina Hulett drinking. The four ate dinner and continued to drink throughout the evening. At approximately 2:50 a.m., Watts and the defendant left the apartment to purchase more alcohol. They proceeded to Walt and Deanies, where they purchased liquor. As the two men were driving back towards Cook's apartment, the defendant told Watts he desired some female companionship. As a result, Watts drove to an area in town where prostitutes are known to frequent. As they drove through town, the defendant saw a woman in the shadows and told Watts to honk the horn. At this point, Robinson walked up to the car on the passenger side. The defendant rolled down the window and asked if she would take both of them. Robinson told the men that three was not a crowd and it would cost them $50. Robinson then instructed the defendant to slide over and entered the car through the passenger door. Watts said hello to Robinson, but did not indicate that he knew her. He asked her name, and Robinson appeared somewhat confused.

At this point in the testimony, Watts explained that he was already acquainted with Robinson. He first met her in the section of Springfield where prostitutes work early one morning in April of 1986. Watts explained he was delivering a pizza when Robinson approached his car and asked if he wanted a date. He took her to Bilyeu's apartment, where they had sex and Watts paid Robinson $20. Watts testified that he picked up Robinson on two subsequent occasions. Both times, he took her to Bilyeu's apartment and paid her for sex. Watts stated that he not only had sex with Robinson but also confided in her regarding his personal life and the status of his marriage. On cross-examination, Watts stated that he had not previously revealed his relationship with Robinson because he feared that it would strengthen the State's case against him.

After Robinson entered the vehicle, Watts drove in search of a secluded place where they could have sex. He stated that he drove out Clear Lake Road and turned off on Miller's Road, which eventually turned into a gravel path. As they approached the gravel path, the defendant pulled a knife and placed it against Robinson's throat. Watts stated that he could not actually see the knife but told the defendant to "knock it off" and get rid of the knife. At this point, defendant rolled down the window and then slid into the backseat of the car. Watts believed the defendant had thrown the knife out of the window. As Watts continued driving, the defendant grabbed Robinson's arm and attempted to pull her into the backseat. At this point, Watts stopped the car.

Watts got out of the car and threatened to drive Robinson back to town. The defendant assured him that everything would be fine. The defendant exited the car and grabbed Robinson, tearing her blouse. Watts again told the defendant to leave the woman alone. At this point, Watts told Robinson that he did not have any money. The defendant also told her he could not pay. Watts claimed that he did not know the defendant was without money and additionally stated he believed the defendant had recently received a paycheck. Watts later testified that he told Robinson he would take care of the money at a later point in time.

Watts then began walking away from the car with Robinson. The two proceeded to a point approximately 35 feet west of the car. The defendant remained behind by the car drinking whiskey. Meanwhile, Watts and the woman had sex on the ground. Afterwards, Watts returned to the car and told the defendant it was his turn. The defendant went to the same spot where Watts and Robinson had been and proceeded to have sex with Robinson. Watts stayed at the car for a short time drinking whiskey. He then proceeded to the spot where defendant and Robinson were. According to Watts, the woman was on her hands and knees, and the defendant was having sex with her from behind. Watts went to the front of the woman and got in position for her to have oral sex with him. At this point, Watts stated he heard ripping and thumping sounds as the defendant stabbed Robinson a number of times. The woman was stabbed in the side and lower back. Watts claimed, however, that he never saw the knife. Robinson fell to the ground, and Watts believed she was dead. He then started to walk towards the car. As he proceeded, he heard a commotion and looked back to see Robinson running away from the defendant.

The defendant told Watts to stop the woman. Watts chased Robinson and eventually tackled her. The woman smacked him once and Watts grabbed her hands to hold her down. He then slapped her across the face. Robinson asked Watts not to let the defendant kill her. Watts told the woman he would go and get the knife from the defendant. As Watts was getting up from on top of the woman, the defendant came "from out of nowhere with a great big object" and hit the woman on the head. Watts claimed he could tell she was already dead. Watts stood up as the defendant delivered additional blows to the woman's face. Watts admitted he made no attempt to stop the defendant. At this point, Watts left the scene. The defendant continued to hit the woman with the large object. As Watts walked across the railroad tracks toward the car, he heard several thumps.

Watts then went to his car and attempted to leave the area, but the defendant jumped in as he began to drive away. The defendant, who was covered with mud and blood, told Watts to take him to some water. Watts drove to Lake Springfield. The defendant immediately got out of the car and dove into the water. Watts claimed that as he walked on a pier, he stumbled, fell into the water and then waded out waist-deep. Watts stated that for some unknown reason, he took off his tennis shoes and threw them into the lake. He claimed he did not believe there was blood on his shoes.

After leaving the lake, Watts drove back toward Springfield. Along the way, Watts realized his T-shirt was missing. The defendant told Watts that he had used it to wipe some blood off the door and dashboard and had thrown it out the window. The men then went through a car wash and further cleaned out the car. The men then proceeded to Cook's house, where Watts washed their clothes. The defendant went upstairs and got into the bathtub. After the defendant had bathed, Watts went upstairs and rinsed in the defendant's bath water.

The defendant then began to mess with Cook and Hulett, at which point, Watts became more scared. Watts testified that he wanted to get the defendant away from the women. As a result, Watts and the defendant headed towards Bloomington, where Watts' family lives. However, while en route, Watts' car suffered a flat tire. The men flagged down a truck and convinced the driver to take them back to Springfield.

While the men were driving, Watts told the defendant he could not forget what had happened. The defendant replied that it would be best to forget it if Watts ever wanted to see his wife and children again. The defendant then laughed. He also told Watts that what had happened "was history."

Upon returning to Springfield, Watts and the defendant proceeded to Bilyeu's house. It was approximately 8 a.m. The defendant kept complaining that there was something in his eye. Watts stated the defendant had been injured during the incident. The two men borrowed Bilyeu's car and took her to a meeting at work. They then tried to obtain a new tire for Watts' car. At approximately noon, the three went to Watts' car. They fixed the car and returned to ...

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