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March 18, 1997


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County, Illinois. No. 93--CF--441. Honorable John D. O'Shea, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication April 23, 1997.

Present - Honorable William E. Holdridge, Justice, Honorable Kent Slater, Justice, Honorable Thomas J. Homer, Justice. Justice Holdridge Delivered The Opinion OF The Court. Homer, J. concurs; Slater, J., partially concurs and partially dissents.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Holdridge


Following a jury trial, defendant Larry L. Simpson was convicted of the first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9--1(a)(1) (West 1992)) and aggravated criminal sexual assault (two counts) (720 ILCS 5/12--14(a)(2), 13(a)(1) (West 1992)) of five-year-old Amber Sutton. The court imposed consecutive sentences of natural life for murder and 60 years each for the Class X aggravated criminal sexual assaults (730 ILCS 5/5--8--2(a)(2), 5--5--3.2(b)(2), (b)(4)(i) (West 1992)).

The issues on appeal are whether the trial court erred in (1) denying defendant's motion for a mistrial; and (2) imposing extended term sentences for the Class X offenses. For reasons that follow, we affirm defendant's convictions and sentences.


At trial, the State introduced 79 witnesses who testified about the May 29, 1993, abduction and murder of Amber Sutton. Amber's mother, Anna Martin, testified that defendant came to their home around 5:30 p.m. Amber asked for Martin's permission to go play with defendant's daughter, Ashley. Martin denied the request and told Amber she had to come inside to eat. After a few bites of dinner, Amber was allowed to go back outside to play with children in the neighborhood. She was never again seen alive by her family.

Between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., several witnesses saw Amber and four-year-old Damion Barnett walking with defendant in the area between Martin's home and an abandoned power house about seven blocks away. Shelly Webb and Shawn Lee observed defendant playing with the children in the vicinity of the power house and then picking up the little girl near a broken window of the building. About 10 minutes later, they saw defendant walking away from the building alone.

At 6:55 p.m., police dispatcher Beth VanDyle received two 911 calls. The first reported Damion Barnett missing, and the second reported that a little boy was found in the parking lot of Spencer Towers apartments. Damion was unharmed when his mother picked him up a few minutes later at Spencer Towers.

Between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., defendant arrived at the home of his friend, Arthur Wilson. Defendant kept his clothes at Wilson's home. He washed up and then left again. Around 7:15 p.m., defendant was walking with a bundle of clothes in a grocery bag when he encountered Joe Liddell. Liddell gave defendant money for liquor and agreed to meet him at the home of their friend, Oscar Morrison. Defendant threw the bag into some bushes. He later joined friends at Oscar's, but left on Liddell's bicycle when the police entered the neighborhood.

Shortly after 10 p.m., Shawn Lee telephoned the police to report his earlier sighting of the little girl reported missing on the evening news. He led the police to the power house where Amber's bloodied and badly beaten body was found. Around the same time, defendant visited a gas station and then walked to Jim's Rib Haven. The station attendant, who had been alerted that the police were looking for defendant, called the police. At 10:30 p.m., the police apprehended defendant in the restroom of the restaurant.

Two days later, Liddell recovered the bag of clothes that defendant was wearing when he was seen with the two children. Liddell turned the parcel over to the police. Forensic evidence established that Amber's blood was spattered on the clothing, and debris from the floor of the power house was on defendant's shoes. Pathologist Dr. Mary Jumbelic testified that she performed an autopsy and determined that Amber died from strangulation and a skull fracture caused by blunt trauma. She could also have died from bleeding of the vagina, the anus or internal organs.

Christine Arnold, defendant's girlfriend, testified for the State as well as the defense. As a witness for the State, Arnold said she kicked defendant out of her house following an argument on May 24, 1993. Testifying for the defense, Arnold said that she and defendant had a normal sexual relationship. On cross-examination, Arnold stated that defendant enjoyed anal sex. The prosecutor then asked Arnold what she and defendant had argued about the day ...

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