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March 28, 1994



Released for Publication May 5, 1994. Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied October 6, 1994.

O'connor, Buckley, Manning

The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'connor

JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the court:

In the morning hours of April 1, 1990, police discovered the severely beaten corpse of Michael Wyand. Wyand's face was bloody, and he had abrasions and bruises in the abdominal region. Wyand's pants were pulled down around the thighs, his sweatshirt was pulled up and his shoes were off. Broken tree branches around the body were covered with blood consistent with Wyand's blood type. After investigating, the police arrested defendant, Larry Krueger, and charged him with murder. After a bench trial, the trial Judge found Krueger guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced him to 40 years in prison. Krueger appeals his conviction and sentence. We affirm.

The State presented numerous witnesses, none of whom actually saw Krueger kill Wyand. On March 31, 1990, Diane Pelaquin testifiedthat she was Krueger's girl friend. That evening, she and Krueger went bowling with Krueger's mother. At 11 p.m., they left the bowling alley and went to a party at 157th Street and Woodlawn in South Holland, Illinois. While at the party, Pelaquin decided to purchase some marijuana. She approached a man named "Rich" and gave him $35 for a quarter ounce of marijuana. Rich procured the marijuana from Wyand. When Rich returned with a bag of marijuana, Pelaquin decided that the bag was "short" of the quarter ounce she had paid for. Pelaquin confronted Wyand, and they began pushing and shoving each other. Pelaquin punched Wyand in the nose, causing bleeding.

Krueger approached Pelaquin and Wyand, and Krueger began arguing with and shoving Wyand. Krueger is 6'2" and weighed 180 pounds. Wyand was 5'7" and about 125 pounds. Pelaquin left Krueger and Wyand and went to another room, where she heard Wyand and Krueger continue their argument. The owner of the house threw Wyand and Krueger out of the house at this point. Krueger returned to the house 15 minutes later to get Pelaquin's car keys. He told her that he was driving Wyand home.

An hour later, Krueger returned to the house, and Pelaquin noticed that he had blood on his hands. She heard someone ask Krueger if he had gotten the money or the pot, and Krueger responded that he got some of the money. Pelaquin also heard someone ask Krueger what he had done with Wyand, and Krueger responded that he had dropped him off in Hammond, Indiana. Pelaquin and Krueger then left the party in Pelaquin's car. Krueger drove south on Woodlawn and stopped near 159th Street. He told Pelaquin that he was "checking to make sure Michael's all right; I beaten him up pretty bad." Defendant got out of the car and walked along some hedges. When he returned to the car, he said to Pelaquin that "he must have walked off."

The next morning Pelaquin noticed blood in the back seat of the car. Pelaquin and Krueger took the car to a car wash where they washed the back seat with some rags. They threw the rags in a trash bin, where they were later recovered by police.

Leonard Andrew Heeringa lived at 15748 Woodlawn in South Holland, where the party took place. According to Heeringa, Wyand was the first to arrive at the party. Wyand was skinny, scrawny and very weak. He wore thick glasses. Heeringa stated that Krueger and Wyand were fighting in a hallway of his house around midnight. Heeringa and a friend broke up the fight, but another one broke out 15 to 20 minutes later. Heeringa threw the two out of the house at that point. Outside the house, the fight continued. At one point, Wyand was on the ground, on his hands and knees, and Krueger was kicking him in the ribs, as Wyand searched for his glasses, which had fallen off. Heeringa broke up the fight again, telling Krueger that Wyand was too drunk to feel himself being beaten. Krueger acknowledged this statement.

Heeringa saw and heard Krueger offer Wyand a ride home. Krueger and Wyand drove off, and Krueger returned to the party an hour and a half later. Like Pelaquin, Heeringa noticed that Krueger had bloody hands. Krueger told Heeringa that he had dropped off Wyand somewhere in South Holland, but then changed his answer to Hammond, Indiana.

Edward Becker recounted events similarly to Heeringa. Becker stated that when Krueger returned from driving Wyand "home," Krueger said he "searched the body and he searched the crotch and he couldn't find nothing or anything but he did find 14 dollars." Becker also stated that when he returned, Krueger said that Wyand had punched him and given him a bloody nose, but he did not see any blood on Krueger's face.

Jeffery Travis noticed that when Krueger returned to the party at 2:30 a.m., he had blood on his hands and stated that he had dropped Wyand off "somewhere in Homewood." Travis stated that Krueger said he had punched Wyand "a few good times."

Terry Saunier stated that at one point during the initial fight between Krueger and Wyand, Wyand pulled a knife on Krueger, but Saunier took the knife away and put it in his own pocket. Saunier heard Krueger tell someone else that he had taken Wyand home. Saunier also stated that Krueger's nose was not bleeding when he entered the house ...

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