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01/23/89 the People of the State of v. Jeff Blake

January 23, 1989





534 N.E.2d 415, 179 Ill. App. 3d 249, 128 Ill. Dec. 233 1989.IL.57

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Francis Mahon, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the court. CAMPBELL and BUCKLEY, JJ., concur.


Defendant Jeff Blake was accused of killing his mother, Mrs. Celia Blake, and Mr. Willie Lowe, and charged with two counts of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 9-1) and two counts of armed robbery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 18-2). Blake was convicted of both murders and one count of armed robbery and sentenced to natural life imprisonment. Blake appeals the convictions, arguing that several evidentiary rulings were erroneous. For the reasons below, we affirm.

Mrs. Celia Blake owned and managed six apartment buildings and employed her son Jeff Blake, Frank Fortune, James Skinner, Milton Scott, and Willie Lowe. Blake and Fortune were close friends and used drugs together about four to five times a week. Blake usually paid for the drugs, using his pay, and sometimes borrowing from Celia.

In the morning of November 22, 1983, Blake asked his mother several times for money, which she refused, triggering angry arguments that were witnessed at various times by Fortune, Scott, Skinner, and Lowe. In the early morning a neighbor was present when Blake asked Celia for money and she refused. Later, while Blake, Celia and James Skinner were driving Blake's children to school, Blake and Celia argued a second time. Skinner later testified that arguments about money between Blake and Celia were not uncommon.

At about 10:30 a.m., Celia and Blake, Fortune, Scott, Skinner and Lowe were assembled in the furnace room of the building at 6818 Normal, which Celia used as an office. After Celia gave the men their work assignments, Blake again asked for money and Celia again refused. When the argument began the others left. Fortune waited outside for Blake, who came out a few minutes later and, according to Fortune, said, "[She] will regret that."

Later in the morning, Skinner borrowed $20 from Celia, which he gave to Blake. Blake and Skinner then went to fix a faucet and collect rent. After the faucet was fixed, Skinner, Scott and Lowe were present in the furnace room when Celia again refused Blake's request for $20. Skinner gave Celia $300 in rent money he had collected.

In the early afternoon, Celia sent Skinner to repair the refrigerator in the apartment of Evelyn Williams. Blake went to find Williams to let them into her apartment, and Fortune, Scott and Skinner went to Williams' apartment. Williams arrived and let Skinner and Scott into the apartment while Fortune sat on the steps smoking a cigarette. Blake was not present.

While Fortune was on the steps, Lowe arrived, saying that Blake had sent him because Scott wanted him to help with the refrigerator. When Lowe learned that Scott did not need him, he became angry and left. Fortune then went to the lobby of the building to sit in a chair, where he saw Lowe go into the furnace room and heard him talking to Celia. Presently Lowe came out of the furnace room and went into the laundry room across the hall.

At that point, Blake entered the lobby and told Fortune he was going to talk to his mother about how long they would need to work that day. Fortune started to return to Williams' apartment, and as he left the lobby, Lowe came out of the laundry room and went back into the furnace room. Fortune returned to Williams' apartment, where he talked with Skinner, Scott, and Williams. They were shortly joined by Blake, and soon after, Williams let the men out and went to see her sister, who was waiting outside in a car to give Williams a Thanksgiving turkey. Blake and Fortune decided to go to Fortune's place to get something to eat. On the way out, Blake and Fortune passed Williams, who was returning to her apartment.

As Blake and Fortune walked, Blake told Fortune that he had received $40 from his mother and suggested that they use the money to buy drugs. They returned to the building at 6818 Normal and got the car. The two then bought heroin and cocaine for $60 and drove to Fortune's apartment at 6800 ...

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