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11/09/89 the People of the State of v. Melanie Crews

November 9, 1989





547 N.E.2d 580, 191 Ill. App. 3d 228, 138 Ill. Dec. 413 1989.IL.1765

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cass County; the Hon. Robert L. Welch, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE GREEN delivered the opinion of the court. McCULLOUGH, P.J., and SPITZ, J., concur.


On October 17, 1988, the circuit court of Cass County entered judgment on jury verdicts returned finding defendant Melanie Crews guilty of first degree murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)) and solicitation (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 8-1(a)). The court subsequently sentenced her to 30 years' imprisonment for murder and six years' imprisonment for solicitation, the sentences to run concurrently.

Defendant now appeals, contending: (1) the jury was not properly instructed regarding solicitation, accountability, and first degree murder; (2) section 8-5 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 8-5) prohibits convictions for both inchoate and principal offenses and, therefore, her conviction for solicitation to commit murder must fall; and (3) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing defendant. We affirm the conviction and sentence for first degree murder in full but vacate the conviction and sentence for solicitation.

During the trial of this cause, several witnesses testified on behalf of the State that, as early as June or July 1987, defendant expressed her unhappiness with her marriage to her husband, Mark Crews. One person stated defendant told her she wanted out of the marriage, but Mark Crews would not agree to a divorce. Numerous witnesses who worked with defendant at a nursing home in Virginia, Illinois, testified defendant approached them in late 1987 or early 1988 and asked them if they would help her "get rid" of her husband. Witnesses stated she asked them if they had any poisons or drugs which she could use to poison Mark Crews' milk shakes. Many also indicated defendant had asked them if they knew of any hit men she could hire to help her "get rid of" her husband.

David Shoemaker testified defendant told him Mark Crews had been beating her and their small son, and she had tried to place poison in his milk shakes. Shoemaker said defendant talked with him frequently about getting him to help her kill her husband. He said she gave him a .357 magnum pistol after Thanksgiving 1987 and told him he could have her husband's gun collection if he helped her kill him. Shoemaker further testified she threatened both him and his family if he did not cooperate with her.

Shoemaker testified defendant called him the evening of January 19, 1988, and told him, "If you don't want anything to happen to your kids, you will do it tonight." He drove to the Crews' residence and accompanied Mark Crews to a shed to look at a motorcycle. Shoemaker said defendant went with them and stood behind him, encouraging him to "do it now." Shoemaker stated he removed the pistol from the waistband of his pants and pulled the trigger. Mark Crews' body was found in the shed behind his house. The parties stipulated he had died from a gunshot wound to the back of the head. The evidence indicated the bullet which killed Crews had come from the .357 magnum pistol which police removed from David Shoemaker's residence.

The testimony of several witnesses corroborated Shoemaker's testimony. One co-worker indicated defendant told her on January 19, 1988, that Shoemaker was coming to their house that night to kill her husband, Mark Crews. She said defendant informed her she was not sure if the "job" had been completed yet because she had not yet spoken with Shoemaker. However, the co-worker stated defendant later approached her, put her finger to her head and said Shoemaker had shot her husband. Another co-worker testified defendant told her on January 20, 1988, that Shoemaker had been to her house the night before to "finish the job," and the shooting had occurred in a "little house" behind her residence.

Defendant denied she had asked others for poisons or drugs or for assistance in helping her kill her husband. She specifically denied asking David Shoemaker to kill her husband. She stated the last time she saw her husband was when he left with someone the evening of January 19, 1988, to go down to a farm to look at a dirt bike. She did acknowledge she lived apart from Mark Crews for one month in 1986. In addition, she stated she and Mark had discussed the possibility of a divorce during 1986 and 1987, but Mark would not agree to one.

Following presentation of the evidence, an informal jury instruction conference was held, and the court allowed, without defense objection, numerous Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Criminal (2d ed. 1981) (IPI Criminal 2d) offered by the State. Among those ...

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