Appeal from the Circuit Court of Fayette County. No. 91-CF-101. Honorable Joseph L. Fribley, Judge Presiding.
Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied December 6, 1994.
Honorable Thomas M. Welch, J., Honorable William A. Lewis, P.j., Concurring, Honorable Philip J. Rarick, J., Dissenting
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Welch
JUSTICE WELCH delivered the opinion of the court:
A jury convicted defendant, Stuart Heaton, of murder in the stabbing death of Krystal Naab. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Defendant raises four issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court erred in admitting DNA evidence implicating defendant in the crime; (2) whether the circuit court erred in allowing autopsy photographs of the victim to go to the jury room; (3) whether theprosecutor, in his opening and closing arguments, improperly referred to defendant's silence; and (4) whether the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant. We affirm defendant's conviction and sentence.
Upon returning home from work at approximately 4 or 4:30 p.m. on July 23, 1991, Curtis Naab found his 16-year-old sister, Krystal, lying in a pool of blood in the living room of the trailer where he, Krystal, and their mother, Helen, lived. After unsuccessfully trying to revive Krystal, Curtis drove to a neighbor's home to summon help. Ultimately, defendant was charged with Krystal's murder.
At trial, Curtis Naab testified that he was 22 years old and had known defendant in high school. Since then, he had had only occasional contact with defendant. Curtis testified that defendant had been to the Naab residence a couple of times. Curtis also testified that he had seen defendant driving a white Dodge Dakota pickup truck five to six times during the previous year. Curtis was shown photographs of defendant's pickup truck which depict a 1989 white Dodge Dakota pickup truck with distinctive hubcaps, running boards, and two white tool boxes, each of which are five to six feet long and run the entire length of the bed of the truck. The photographs also depict a third (black) tool box, smaller in size and wedged between the two white tool boxes immediately under the window of the truck. All the tool boxes are removable. Curtis did not remember whether the tool boxes were in the truck when he had previously seen it.
Helen Naab identified State's Exhibit #6, a pair of pink-handled scissors which were found by the kitchen sink on the day of the murder, as one of two pairs she kept in the living room china cabinet.
Gary Blurton, the Fayette County coroner, testified that when he arrived at the Naab residence, he found Krystal lying on her back in the living room, surrounded by blood. Blurton saw several stab or puncture wounds in the neck and chest area. He found no pulse and pronounced Krystal dead. Blurton walked into the kitchen and saw a pair of mauve-colored scissors lying by the sink. The scissors were covered by a dark stain or discoloration. The phone was lying on the floor. Blurton testified that while he and Sheriff Kleinik waited for the crime scene technicians, the Naab's neighbor, Cavit Cooley, told them that he had seen a small white pickup truck with odd-shaped hubcaps parked at the Naab trailer around 12:30 p.m. that day.
Sergeant Steven Poe, an agent with the Illinois State Police, Division of Criminal Investigation, testified that Heaton became a suspect in the case when several people came forward and told authorities that they saw a small white pickup truck at the Naab's trailer on the day of the murder. A search of defendant's residenceand pickup truck produced no incriminating evidence. Defendant's blood, hair, and fingerprints were taken for forensic purposes. Photographs of the defendant taken that evening show numerous, small lacerations on his hands.
Dr. Beverly Tsai, certified in anatomical and clinical pathology, conducted the autopsy on Krystal Naab. Dr. Tsai testified that Krystal bled to death as a result of 81 stab wounds over her neck, chest, back, thighs, arms, and hands. Dr. Tsai characterized 26 of the 81 wounds as deep, major wounds and testified that scissors were consistent with the type of injury inflicted on Krystal. The doctor opined that the small scratches and superficial cuts on Krystal's hands and arms were defensive wounds, inflicted when Krystal attempted to fend off her attacker.
Dr. Tsai also opined that the superficial wounds on defendant's right hand were similar to the superficial wounds on the victim with the exception that the victim's wounds were deeper than those of the defendant. The doctor testified that defendant's cuts could have been caused by more than one instrument, but it was her "general impression" that his wounds were similar to Krystal's.
Dr. Tsai found a small patch of white-yellowish crusted material on the victim's pubic hair. Two samples were taken from this area: (1) a swabbing of the pubic hair, and (2) a combing of the pubic hair with the crusted material attached.
Richard Caudell and Charles Robert Collier, crime scene technicians with the Illinois State Police, testified that none of the blood, hair, or fiber evidence collected from the scene could be positively identified as coming from the defendant, nor could fingerprints found at the scene be identified as defendant's.
Debbie Baldock testified that she lived approximately 1/2 mile from the Naabs. On July 23, she drove by the Naab's residence about 10:15 or 10:30 a.m. She had just passed the Naab residence when a small white pickup truck crested the hill, going in the opposite direction. Baldock identified defendant as the driver.
Numerous witnesses testified that they saw a small white Dodge Dakota pickup truck at the Naab's residence on July 23, 1991. The times they placed the truck there ranged from 12:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. All testified that they saw no tool boxes, but one witness stated that the truck he saw had unusual hubcaps. Another witness specifically identified defendant's truck as the one he had seen at the Naab residence, except that the tool boxes were missing, and the witness stated that he had seen defendant driving the truck before.
Jack Cook testified that when he drove by the Naabs' trailer at approximately 3 or 3:15 p.m., he saw a white Dodge Dakota pickuptruck begin backing out of the driveway. Cook described the driver as a man weighing 150 pounds, with dark hair and a thin moustache, but he did not identify defendant as the driver. A photograph of the defendant taken on the evening of the murder shows him with blondish-brown hair and a moustache. When shown the photograph of defendant's truck, Cook stated that the tool boxes were not in it on that day and he did not remember the running boards depicted on defendant's truck.
Louis Franklin testified that on the day of the murder he was mowing on his son's property about 1 1/4 miles south of the Naabs. He was a couple of hundred feet from the road when, about 3:15 p.m., he saw a white pickup truck driving by at a very high rate of speed. Franklin testified that the photograph of defendant's truck looked like the truck he had seen that afternoon except that he did not remember any tool boxes in it.
Scott Washburn, defendant's neighbor, testified that at approximately 5:30 to 6 p.m. on the evening of July 23, he helped defendant lift two large white tool boxes into the back of defendant's pickup truck and fasten them down. Washburn also testified that he may have ...