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06/21/89 the People of the State of v. Jack G. Bruce

June 21, 1989





541 N.E.2d 708, 185 Ill. App. 3d 356, 133 Ill. Dec. 497 1989.IL.940

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. Charles Romani, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE HARRISON delivered the opinion of the court. WELCH, P.J., and GOLDENHERSH, J., concur.


On March 19, 1987, a jury in the circuit court of Madison County found the defendant, Jack Bruce, guilty of two counts of murder in violation of section 9-1(a)(1) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (the Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)), home invasion in violation of section 12-11(a)(2) of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 12-11(a)(2)), and attempt (murder) in violation of section 8-4 of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 8-4). The court entered judgment on the jury's verdicts, and on May 8, 1987, the court sentenced the defendant to two terms of natural-life imprisonment and to two terms of 30 years' imprisonment. All sentences were ordered to be served concurrently. The defendant appeals. We affirm.

On May 1, 1986, shortly after 9 a.m., the bodies of Carl and Susan Hoffman were discovered by Richard Jasudowicz and Earl Davis, co-workers at Carl Hoffman's realty company, at the Hoffmans' home in Granite City, Illinois. Each victim had been shot three times in the head and stabbed numerous times in the chest. The body of Carl Hoffman was found upright on the couch in the living room, near a knife stained with blood. Susan Hoffman's body was found on the floor in front of the couch. Forensic evidence indicated that the victims had been killed sometime during the previous evening and that the assailant had fired the shots at a distance of about one foot from each victim's head.

The co-workers discovered the bodies subsequent to their becoming concerned when neither Carl nor his wife appeared for work. Upon telephoning the Hoffman residence, a co-worker spoke with Jennifer Seago, the five-year-old daughter of Susan Hoffman. In that conversation, the child indicated that she could not wake her mother or her stepfather and that her mother had been hurt. The two co-workers drove to the Hoffman home and were let into the residence by Jennifer. The co-workers discovered the bodies and also detected the strong odor of gas throughout the home.

Emergency medical technicians, fire personnel, and the police shortly arrived at the scene. They discovered that all of the controls on the gas range had been turned on to their maximum, and that a candleholder had been set on a table in the kitchen. A burned match lay at the base of this candleholder, and a puddle of wax indicated that the holder had recently contained a candle which had melted.

The police observed that the front door of the home was locked, while the back door of the home had been forced open. The police found glass around the back door, shell casings and the bloodstained knife in the living room, and other bloodstains near the rear door of the house and in the basement. Outside of the home, in the muddy area near Jennifer Seago's bedroom window, the police observed that someone had left an impression of the heel of a shoe revealing the letters "FLO." The police took blood samples and lifted fingerprints from the scene, and subsequently performed ballistics tests on the shell casings and on the bullets removed from the bodies of the deceased.

The Granite City police department contacted the Major Case Squad of the Greater St. Louis Area , who interviewed dozens of individuals bearing any relationship to the Hoffmans. On May 2, 1986, Terry May, an officer with the Granite City police department, interviewed the defendant. The defendant indicated that Carl Hoffman had sold some property for him and that he and Hoffman had often played cards together.

At 3 p.m. on May 3, 1986, Officer May contacted the defendant and requested that he come to the Granite City police station for another interview. Shortly afterwards, at approximately 3:07 p.m., the police were advised to proceed to the defendant's home because the defendant had just been shot. Upon arriving at the defendant's home, Steve Willaredt, a Granite City police officer, observed that the defendant was lying near his driveway, had been wounded in the stomach, and was in apparent pain. As an ambulance prepared to take the defendant to the hospital, Willaredt requested the defendant to give him the keys to his home. The defendant consented. Less than an hour later, Officer May, working independently at the hospital, also received the defendant's consent to search his residence, and received his consent to search his vehicles at approximately 4:10 p.m.

Upon entering the home subsequent to the consent, Alva Busch, a crime scene technician, examined a pair of dirt-covered gray shoes found in the living room. Upon noticing that the shoes were manufactured by Florsheim, and recalling that the shoe impressions found on the broken glass and in the mud at the Hoffmans' home had the same design configuration, Busch replaced the shoes and ordered the officers to leave the home.

The police subsequently obtained a warrant to search the defendant's home. The search revealed numerous items which were later introduced in evidence at the defendant's trial, including: (1) a door knob, found in an adjacent field, that apparently came from the Hoffmans' back door; (2) a gold-colored key, found in the defendant's bathroom, which apparently fit a lock on the door of the Hoffmans' home; (3) a crowbar allegedly used to break open the Hoffmans' back door, and which revealed paint scrapings that matched the paint found on the door; (4) bullets; and (5) an empty box which once contained a gun which the police suspected, and which subsequent ballistics tests on similar weapons confirmed, could have been used as the murder weapon.

Apparently not convinced of the defendant's claim of having been shot by unknown assailants, the police uncovered substantial evidence in support of the suspicion that the defendant had inflicted the wound upon himself in an effort to mislead the authorities. The defendant's next-door neighbor, Connie Busch, related that 5 to 10 minutes before the officers had arrived at the defendant's home, she was in her garden, heard hammering noises, and saw the defendant kneeling near a black bag at the rear of his home. The police found a gun hidden in a bag of peat moss near where the defendant, according to Connie Busch, had been kneeling. The police also found a spent shell casing outside of the defendant's front door. The ballistics of this casing matched the ballistics of the gun found in the peat moss.

The police arrested the defendant on May 8, 1986, and the defendant was indicted on May 14, 1986. On July 21, 1986, the circuit court entered an order granting a trial continuance to August 25, 1986. The defendant's attorney signed his name to this order. At a docket call on August 20, 1986, for cases scheduled for trial on August 25, 1986, the defendant's attorney failed to appear. On August 25, 1986, both the assistant State's Attorney and the counsel for the defendant met with the trial Judge concerning the trial of the case. The defendant's attorney informed the Judge that he would confer with the defendant as to the suggested trial date of October 13, 1986, and return with an answer on September 2, 1986. At the docket call on September 2, for cases set for trial September 8, the defendant's attorney appeared and announced that he would submit a formal motion for a continuance. However, soon afterwards, the defendant's attorney telephoned the assistant State's Attorney and stated that he would not request a continuance. As a result, the assistant State's Attorney, on September 8, 1986, filed a "Motion to Declare Delay Attributable to the Defendant." On September 9, 1986, the defendant's attorney filed a response and a petition for habeas corpus relief requesting the defendant's discharge and the dismissal of the case for not having been tried within 120 days of the defendant's arrest.

After hearing arguments on September 9, 1986, the circuit court denied the defendant's request for discharge. The court determined that two periods of delay, from July 21 to August 25, 1986, and from August 25 to September 8, 1986, were attributable to the defendant. The defendant was in custody 75 days from incarceration on May 8, 1986, to July 21, 1986; 36 days from July 21 to August 25 (inclusive); and 14 days from August 25 to September 8 (exclusive of September 8). In its order of September 11, 1986, the trial court found that the 36-day delay from July 21 to August 25, 1986, was attributable to the defendant because his attorney had specifically requested that continuance and had signed an order to that effect. The trial court also attributed the 14-day delay between August 25 and September 8, 1986, to the defendant because the court noted that, on August 25, 1986, the defendant's counsel had agreed to a trial date of October 13, 1986, ...

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