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06/14/89 the People of the State of v. Donald Zunker Et Al.

June 14, 1989





540 N.E.2d 884, 184 Ill. App. 3d 816, 133 Ill. Dec. 18 1989.IL.887

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Themis Karnezis, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE RIZZI delivered the opinion of the court. FREEMAN, P.J., and McNAMARA,* J., concur.


Defendants, Donald Zunker and Joseph Nawrot, were found guilty of murder, in separate, but contemporaneous bench trials. Each defendant was sentenced to serve 20 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. On appeal, Zunker argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence. Nawrot argues that he was not proven guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt. We affirm.

The following facts were revealed at the hearing on defendants' motions to quash arrest and suppress evidence. On March 10, 1984, the victim, Michael DeMiere, was found dead in the second-floor apartment of a two-flat building located at 1426 West 50th Street, Chicago, Illinois. Chicago police detective Higgins was assigned to the investigation of DeMiere's death. When Higgins entered the apartment, he found the victim lying in a bed in the living room. DeMiere's body was bloody and bruised. In the bathroom, Higgins observed bloodstains on the bathtub, washstand, toilet and floor. There was also blood on the bathroom doorjamb and some loose pieces of plasterboard. The apartment, which was undergoing renovation, was owned by Loretta Howard. Mrs. Howard was allowing DeMiere, who was homeless, to live in the apartment until the renovation was completed and the unit leased.

While Higgins was talking with witnesses on the second-floor rear porch, defendant Nawrot, who lived in the first-floor apartment, came up the stairs, introduced himself and asked what was going on. Nawrot then told Higgins what was to become the first of three versions of the events of March 9, 1984. Nawrot initially told Higgins that he had known the victim for four years and that he last saw him alive at approximately 5 a.m. on March 9, 1984. Nawrot stated that he spent the previous evening drinking with defendant Zunker and returned home to his apartment between 4 and 5 a.m. After a while, Zunker expressed an interest in renting the second-floor apartment, so Nawrot and Zunker went upstairs to view the unit.

When they entered the apartment they saw DeMiere lying on a bed in the living room. Nawrot kicked the bed and woke DeMiere. DeMiere showed Zunker and Nawrot around the apartment and Nawrot noticed that DeMiere had apparently been involved in a fight. According to Nawrot, one of DeMiere's eyes was swollen. After viewing the apartment, Nawrot and Zunker returned to the first floor and DeMiere joined them to have a beer. Nawrot stated that DeMiere began to stumble around and bang into things so he ordered him out of his apartment. Nawrot related that he heard the victim as he walked upstairs and returned to the second floor.

The next day, Higgins spoke with Doctor Dolz of the medical examiner's office. The doctor informed him that an examination of the victim revealed that he had numerous injuries, including a cervical spine fracture. Dolz stated that the victim would not be able to walk or talk after sustaining the injury. Higgins testified that he returned to Nawrot's apartment and asked him if he would accompany him to the Area 3 police station to answer some additional questions regrading DeMiere's death. Nawrot agreed. After they arrived at the police station, Higgins informed Nawrot that the victim had a fractured spine and would not be able to walk or talk after his injury. Nawrot then told Higgins the second of three versions of the events of March 9, 1984. Nawrot told Higgins that after DeMiere entered his apartment, he became a nuisance, so he pushed him out of the door. Nawrot stated that DeMiere fell to the ground and he and Zunker picked him up and returned him to the second floor. Higgins then asked Nawrot to take a polygraph examination and he agreed. Higgins drove Nawrot to police headquarters at 11th and State Street. Higgins testified that he read Nawrot his Miranda rights and left him with the polygraph examiner. After a while, the examiner came into the waiting room and told Higgins that Nawrot was ready to tell everything that happened the previous day. Nawrot then gave an oral statement in the presence of the polygraph examiner and Higgins. In his third version of the events of March 9, 1984, Nawrot admitted that he and Zunker beat Michael DeMiere.

Higgins returned with Nawrot to the Area 3 police station to obtain a written statement. After their arrival, Higgins observed defendant Zunker being interviewed by Chicago police detectives Kwilos and Lane. Higgins joined the interview with Zunker and noted that his story was the same version that Nawrot had told in their initial interview. Higgins interrupted Zunker and told him that he was just digging a hole for himself and that he should tell the truth. Zunker then agreed to tell the truth. After Lane read Zunker his Miranda warnings, he made an oral statement admitting his participation in the beating of DeMiere. The State's Attorney's office was contacted and court-reported statements were taken from Nawrot and Zunker.

Detective Lane and polygraph examiner Walsh also testified on behalf of the State. Lane and Walsh essentially corroborated Higgins' testimony. Detective Lane also testified that he and his partner went to Zunker's home and asked him to accompany them to the police station to answer some questions regarding DeMiere's death. Lane stated that Zunker came voluntarily and that he was not under arrest at that time.

Assistant State's Attorney Botti testified that he was assigned to the case and that he took court-reported statements from both Zunker and Nawrot. He further testified that each defendant read the typed statement, made corrections, initialed each page and signed his name on the last page. Botti testified that he did not promise or witness anyone promise Zunker anything in exchange for his statement. Botti further testified that Higgins told him that he did not make any promises to Zunker.

Defendant Nawrot testified on his own behalf. Nawrot testified that Higgins came to his home at approximately 10:30 a.m. on March 10, 1984, and asked him to come to the police station to make a final statement regarding the death of Michael DeMiere. Nawrot agreed, and Higgins drove him to the police station. Nawrot gave a ...

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