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June 7, 1996


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable John Wasilewski, Judge Presiding.

Presiding Justice McNULTY delivered the opinion of the court: Cousins and Hourihane, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcnulty

PRESIDING JUSTICE McNULTY delivered the opinion of the court:

After a jury trial, defendant Amotto Jackson was found guilty of first degree murder, felony murder, aggravated kidnapping, and kidnapping in the murder of Kristen Ponquinette. Defendant was sentenced to a term of natural life imprisonment for the first degree murder conviction and 15 years for the aggravated kidnapping conviction. Defendant appeals and we affirm.

Dr. Charles Ponquinette testified that he last saw his daughter Kristin (the victim) alive in March 1992 and that he learned in April 1992 that she had been found dead.

Gary Kmetty, a petty officer in the United States Coast Guard Reserve, testified that on April 26, 1992, he received a call regarding a body floating in the Cal-Sag Channel, and he located the victim's body, the feet of which were bound with green electrical wire.

Illinois State police Sergeant James Turner testified that he and crime scene technician Melvin Trojanowski went to St. Francis Hospital in Blue Island on April 26, 1992, and viewed the victim's body, which was bloated, decomposed and coated in mud. Her hands were tied behind her back with an elastic-type rope and her feet were bound at the ankles with a green, plastic-coated electrical wire. Sergeant Turner also noticed a number of bruises and lacerations to the victim's head. The sergeant searched the pockets of the victim's clothing and found business cards and pieces of paper with names and telephone numbers on them of people who lived in the area of 127th and Halsted, two blocks away from the Cal-Sag Channel.

The next day, Sergeant Turner spoke with Cherise Watkins, who told him that when she last spoke with the victim, she said that she was going to stay with friends at 127th Street. Sergeant Turner learned of an area called the "black bridge," which is an area adjacent to a residential neighborhood consisting of a large field leading to an abandoned railroad bridge that crosses the channel just east of Halsted. The channel flows from the black bridge to where the victim's body was found.

Sergeant Turner then conducted a door-to-door canvass of the neighborhood at 127th and Halsted and determined that the victim had been alive and in that area up to the beginning of April. Sergeant Turner spoke with Maurice Martin, whose name was on a piece of paper found on the victim, and he told the sergeant that he believed Venus Beckom, Daniel Butler and Chezeray Moore had information regarding the victim's death.

On May 5, 1992, Sergeant Turner spoke with Venus Beckom and learned that Venus had last seen the victim at a bus stop in the area. The next day, Sergeant Turner interviewed Venus again and she gave him further information, which led him to Daniel and Cassandra Butler, Sharon Burke and Lashonda Wilson. Interviews with these individuals led Sergeant Turner to arrest defendant and codefendants Chezeray Moore, Timothy Mobley and Henry Lovett. Sergeant Turner ordered a search of the area of the black bridge, and a rock with hair and blood on it was recovered. It was discovered that a sewer cover was missing from a sewer hole approximately 300 feet from the bridge. A sewer cover, weighing approximately 150 pounds, was recovered from the bottom of the Cal-Sag Channel in the area of the black bridge. A green electrical wire was attached to the sewer cover. According to Sergeant Turner, the home of Cassandra and Daniel Butler, the home and garage of Chezeray Moore, the Nansin School playground and a Chicago Transit Authority bus stop are all located within a few blocks of the black bridge.

Dr. Robert Kirschner of the Cook County medical examiner's office performed an autopsy on the victim on April 26, 1992, and found that her hands had been tied behind her back with a rope and that her ankles had been bound with a plastic wire. He determined that the victim had been dead and submerged for many days. The victim had five lacerations to her head, four of which appeared to have been inflicted prior to her death. She had a stab wound to her lower left back, inflicted before she died. Her left hand was broken, and the bruises to that hand were consistent with a defensive-type wound. She had a large bruise to the left knee and a smaller bruise to the right knee. Dr. Kirschner found "muddy material" fairly deep into the victim's lungs. In Dr. Kirschner's opinion, the cause of the victim's death was drowning in association with blunt trauma.

Dr. David Turngreen, a forensic scientist, testified that he compared the strands of hair found on the rock recovered by police with the head hair of the victim and found they were consistent and exhibited some of the same unusual characteristics. Dr. Turngreen also compared the wire that had been attached to the sewer cover with the wire wrapped around the victim's ankles and found that the two wires had been at one time joined to form a single piece of wire.

Carin Smith testified that in mid-April 1992, she went with her friend, Sharon Burke, to Cassandra Butler's house, located at 127th and Union. When they arrived, Cassandra and the victim were in the house. The victim said that she was leaving, but Burke closed the door and told the victim that she could not leave. Cassandra and Burke asked the victim why she had called Burke a bitch, which the victim denied. Burke then told the victim to go downstairs or Burke would push her down. The victim went downstairs and the others followed. Burke then started slapping the victim in the face and spelling out the word "bitch" as she slapped the victim once for each letter. The victim just stood there and cried.

Cassandra then got a saw, found that it would not cut the victim's hair and went to get a pair of scissors. Burke then put the saw to the victim's neck. When the victim jumped, Burke started laughing. Cassandra and Burke then randomly cut the victim's hair with the scissors. Burke then tied the victim's hands behind her back with a tape measure, put a sock in the victim's mouth, tied the sock around the victim's head, and put the victim in a closet in a back room. Smith and Burke left the house.

Smith soon returned to Cassandra's house and saw Cassandra, Burke, the victim, Chezeray Moore, Venus Beckom, someone named Terry and two other men she knew from the neighborhood. Everyone was in the basement, laughing at and joking about the victim, while the victim remained tied and gagged. Burke untied the victim and Cassandra's brother, Daniel Butler, came downstairs and told everyone to leave. The others left, but Smith remained at the house. Two girls arrived, one named Weewee (Sonya Richardson), but Smith did not know the other girl's name. The girls wanted to know where the victim was, and when Cassandra said she was with Moore and "other guys," the girls and Venus left to find the victim.

Charles Carpenter testified that on an evening in mid-April, 1992, he was at the Nansin School playground, located on 127th Street. Defendant, Chezeray Moore, Henry Lovett, Venus Beckom, a girl named Poopoo (Lashonda Wilson), the victim and a girl whose name he did not know arrived at the playground. Venus and Poopoo began punching the victim. Carpenter talked to defendant, Moore, Lovett, Mobley and Daniel Butler. All six of them were members of the Blackstone gang, with Carpenter, Butler and Mobley ranking higher than defendant, Lovett and Moore.

Carpenter could not remember if anyone in the group said anything about the victim. However, according to a statement Carpenter gave to the police and Assistant State's Attorney Michael Baumel, while standing with defendant, Moore, Daniel Butler, and Mobley, Carpenter heard Mobley say, "Kill the bitch." Carpenter said he only gave this statement so that the police would leave him alone. After Carpenter left the group, he saw defendant and the victim walking toward the bridge. Defendant's arm was around the victim. Carpenter admitted that he was currently on 30 months' probation for possession of a controlled substance and that a violation of probation charge was pending against him.

Venus Beckom testified that in mid-April 1992, she went to the home of her friend Cassandra Butler and saw defendant, Moore, Mobley, the victim, Daniel Butler and Carin Smith in the basement. Venus, defendant and the other people in the basement were all affiliated with the Blackstone gang. According to Venus, the male members of the gang, known as "Brothers," consisted of defendant, Moore, Daniel and Mendell Butler, Terrence and Timothy Mobley and Henry Lovett. The female members of the gang, known as "Sisters," were Venus and Latrice Townsend. Daniel and Mendell Butler were the highest ranking men in the gang and Venus was the highest ranking woman. When the Butler brothers were not around, Timothy Mobley was in charge of the gang members. Defendant and Moore were required to follow Timothy Mobley's orders and had to seek Mobley's approval before doing something on their own. A Blackstone gang meeting was known as a "service" and such services were held at the black bridge.

In the basement, Venus saw that the victim was sitting in a chair, she seemed to be crying, her hands had been tied, she had red marks around her wrists and her hair had been cut in a "raggedy style." Mobley and Moore left with the victim. Poopoo and Weewee arrived looking for the victim and were told that she was a block away at Moore's garage. Poopoo, Weewee and Venus went to Moore's garage.

When Venus got to the garage, she saw the victim sitting on a crate and Moore sitting near her. Weewee and the victim were arguing. Weewee told the victim that she was going to make her perform a sex act on the men in the gang and told Venus to get the men. Venus went to Nansin School playground and saw defendant, Timothy Mobley and Daniel and Mendell Butler. She told them what Weewee said and she and defendant then went back to the garage. When Venus and defendant got to the garage, the victim was crying and asking Moore's mother to help her. Venus told Moore's ...

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