APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FOURTH DISTRICT
536 N.E.2d 1280, 181 Ill. App. 3d 458, 130 Ill. Dec. 69 1989.IL.390
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Pike County; the Hon. Robert L. Welch, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE LUND delivered the opinion of the court. KNECHT and GREEN, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LUND
On March 31, 1988, defendant John Warren Eveland was convicted by a jury in the circuit court of Pike County of the offense of first degree murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)) as the result of the death of his daughter, H.E. On June 10, 1988, defendant was sentenced to a 45-year term of imprisonment. Defendant appeals.
Defendant's sole argument is that the trial court committed reversible error by not granting a mistrial when evidence of prior unrelated criminal conduct allegedly perpetrated by the defendant against his family was testified to by one of the State's witnesses.
The undisputed evidence clearly establishes H.E., a 2-year-old, 33-inch tall, 24-pound girl, died on December 14, 1987, as a result of a beating which occurred that morning. She had been beaten with a belt, a wire hanger, and a toy guitar, none of which blows caused the fatal injury. She had suffered a nonfatal head injury. Death was the result of, probably, a single severe blow by a blunt object to the abdomen which tore apart her liver and fractured one left rib and one right rib. The death-causing injuries could not have been caused by a spanking.
The events of the morning leading up to the fatal injury to H.E. were basically related by two witnesses, her mother, Melinda Eveland, and her father, the defendant.
According to Melinda Eveland, on December 14, 1987, Melinda and defendant were living together in Pittsfield, Illinois, with their two children, T.E., a son three years old, and H.E., a daughter recently two years old. Melinda and defendant arose around 9 a.m., at which time both children were in the living room, in their pajamas, watching television. It was snowing, and defendant told Melinda to go to Wal-Mart and obtain a cover for their boat, which was parked in the backyard of the residence property. Melinda was hurried by defendant to make the trip to Wal-Mart and did not completely dress for the day. She went directly to Wal-Mart, purchased the tarp, and returned home, entering the kitchen door. According to Melinda, defendant came running at her in anger and said: "If you ever leave me with a mess like this, I swear I'll kill you." Melinda ended up on the floor by falling, being shoved, or pulled down.
Melinda got up from the floor and went into the living room, and found H.E. nude, partially on the floor and partially on a cushion, lying on her stomach. She pulled H.E. up, noticed a large bruise over an eye, and took her to her bed in the children's room, covering her with a blanket. T.E. was in the room picking up his toys and appeared scared. H.E.'s eyes were opened, and she said, "Mommy, Mommy," to Melinda. Defendant came into the room and said H.E. had to get up and pick up her toys, just like T.E. Melinda tried to get H.E. to stand, but H.E.'s legs were limp.
Defendant directed Melinda to pick up the mess in the bathroom, and she left the children's bedroom with H.E. lying on the bedroom floor. Melinda stated she heard defendant say, "I hate this little bitch," and saw him raise his bare foot "[maybe] knee high." He was standing over H.E., and Melinda heard a thud that was not consistent with the sound of a foot hitting the floor. Defendant was very angry, and Melinda, without defendant's awareness, obtained her coat and decided to leave the residence. She heard bath water running, and heard defendant say, "You're going to take one too." As she was leaving, she heard a splash and a thud.
Melinda left the house, driving her automobile to defendant's mother's home, could not find her mother-in-law, but later met her mother-in-law while driving on one of the streets in Pittsfield. After talking to her mother-in-law, both women eventually proceeded to the police station where Melinda talked to Officer Floyd Moss, who soon left for the Eveland home. A few minutes later, the police ...