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October 24, 1996


Appeal from the Circuit Court, Winnebago County. No. 93--CF--1174. Honorable Robert G. Coplan, Judge, Presiding.

Rehearing Denied December 9, 1996. Released for Publication December 9, 1996.

The Honorable Justice Colwell delivered the opinion of the court. Doyle and Hutchinson, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colwell

The Honorable Justice COLWELL delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Patrick Pursley, appeals his conviction of first degree murder. Pursley contends (1) the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed murder; (2) prejudicial and irrelevant evidence was improperly admitted; (3) the prosecutor engaged in purposeful misconduct in his opening statement; (4) the court failed to determine the voluntariness of a prior inconsistent statement; and (5) his sentence of natural life imprisonment is an abuse of discretion. We affirm.

On April 2, 1993, at approximately 10 p.m., Andrew Asher and his girlfriend, Becky George, were seated in a parked car in front of George's brother's apartment in Rockford. As they were talking, a man approached the driver's door, where Asher was seated, and pulled it open. The man pointed a gun at Asher and George and said, "This is a stickup, hand me your money." George grabbed about $60 from her purse and leaned over to put it on Asher's lap, and Asher reached into his pocket for his wallet. George testified that she held the money in her hand stretched out toward the robber, but that he did not take it. She began to look for more money in her purse when she heard two "noises that were like pops." She turned toward Asher and saw him slouch down. Then, George stated that the robber turned toward the east and ran. George looked at Asher and noticed that he had been shot, so she ran to her brother's apartment and called the police.

The Rockford police did not find any suspects in the area, but did find a spent bullet in the car. Additionally, the county coroner recovered a bullet from Asher's shoulder. A forensic scientist examined the bullets and determined them to be of 9 millimeter caliber fired from the same firearm.

George told the police that the man was wearing dark clothing and that she vividly remembered the man was wearing a blue ski mask with a hood over the mask. She also said that she saw black skin around the eyes.

On June 8, 1993, Marvin Windham called Crimestoppers about Asher's murder. He stated that he had visited Pursley the day after the murder and that Pursley told him that he killed Asher. Windham did not give his name.

On June 10, 1993, Officer Mark Schmidt and four other police officers set up a surveillance of an apartment the defendant shared with Samantha Crabtree. At 1:25 p.m., Pursley and Crabtree entered a vehicle and Crabtree started driving. The officers followed in an unmarked van. While they were following the vehicle, the vehicle stopped suddenly and Pursley jumped out of the car and began running. The police attempted to pursue, but lost him. Crabtree voluntarily agreed to go to the police station.

On the way to the station, the police stopped at Crabtree's apartment and conducted a search pursuant to a valid search warrant. The police recovered a 9 millimeter gun, a black hooded sweatshirt, black jeans, and a document from the Illinois Department of Employment Security with Pursley's name on it.

At the station, Crabtree told the police that Pursley told her that if she ever said anything to the police he would kill her. At approximately 6 p.m., Crabtree took the police on the route Pursley and Crabtree took the night of Asher's murder. When they returned to the station, Crabtree made a statement outlining the events before, during, and after the murder. According to the statement, Crabtree and Pursley were out driving around to look for a house for Pursley to rob. She stated that Pursley was wearing black combat boots, black jeans, a black hooded sweatshirt, and had a navy blue ski mask with him. After they passed some apartments, Pursley told her to pull over to the side of Silent Road and wait there with the car running. Crabtree stated that Pursley exited the car and walked back toward the apartments they had just passed. Two or three minutes later, she heard gunshots. A minute later, Pursley returned to the car and told her to drive.

Crabtree stated that when Pursley returned to the car he was carrying her 9 millimeter gun in his hand. She said that while she was driving home she made several wrong turns because she was nervous and that Pursley threatened several times to kill her. When they arrived at her apartment, Crabtree said that Pursley took what "looked like" about $100 from his pocket. She stated that later that night she and Pursley saw a news report concerning Asher's death, and Pursley told her not to say anything to anyone.

On June 12, 1993, Windham called Crimestoppers again after hearing that the police were unable to arrest Pursley on June 10. He also gave a statement to the police.

On June 16, 1993, the police received a call from Crimestoppers that a suspect by the name of Patrick Pursley was walking around the Fairground housing projects. The police searched the area, but could not find Pursley. The police then received another Crimestoppers call that the suspect was just seen running northbound. While searching the area, an officer observed a person hiding under a ramp of an abandoned building. The police pulled out the person, who was Pursley, and arrested him.

At trial, George testified to the events of that evening, and a ballistics expert testified that the 9 millimeter gun the police found at Crabtree's apartment was the weapon used in Asher's murder. Diane Winters, a friend of Pursley, testified that Pursley called her a month ...

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