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People v. Ornelas

April 17, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Campbell

Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant Robert Ornelas was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to natural life imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant appeals his conviction.

The record on appeal indicates that prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to quash his arrest. During a hearing on the matter, Frankfort Police Officer Robert Piscia testified that on November 15, 1990, at approximately 7:30 a.m., he spoke to four men standing around the parking lot of the White Hen at LaGrange Road and Route 30. Illinois State Trooper Kim Hoffman-Davis testified that at approximately 8:20 a.m., she was at a gas station near Routes 30 and 45 in Tinley Park, Illinois, when a citizen informed her that a fight was in progress at the White Hen.

Trooper Hoffman-Davis went to the White Hen, where she saw four men standing in the parking lot. Trooper Hoffman-Davis made a radio call regarding the reported fight. Trooper Hoffman-Davis testified that she believed that she noted that she did not see an ongoing fight. Trooper Hoffman-Davis asked the men for identification; three of the men had identification, but defendant did not. Trooper Hoffman-Davis asked defendant his name; defendant first said his name was Ornelas, then said he was named Rudy Ramos.

Approximately two or three minutes later, Illinois State Trooper Charles Arceneux arrived on the scene. Trooper Arceneux testified that the four men would just stare and appeared incoherent when posed with a question. The men did not appear normal; based on his experience, Trooper Arceneux assumed some drug other than alcohol was at work, because there was no alcohol smell.

Trooper Hoffman-Davis asked the men to empty their pockets. The men produced a pair of brass knuckles, 21 hits of LSD and a vial of PCP. However, none of these items were produced by defendant.

At this point, according to Trooper Hoffman-Davis, the Frankfort Police arrived on the scene. Officer Piscia testified that he had returned to the scene in response to a radio call. Officer Piscia stated that another Frankfort Police car appeared on the scene to transport the men to the police station, because the Frankfort cars -- unlike the State Police cars -- had safety cages. Officer Piscia stated that the emotions of the four men would vary from excited to lethargic.

Officer Piscia transported two of the men to the police station in his car. One of the men claimed to be a devil, then claimed to be Jesus Christ and forgave Officer Piscia for his sins. Officer Piscia did not recall which of the men made these claims. Trooper Hoffman-Davis testified that after arriving at the police station, defendant was screaming in his cell, where he had fashioned a cross on the door. According to Trooper Hoffman-Davis, defendant claimed he was Jesus Christ, but also identified himself as Joe Montana. Trooper Hoffman-Davis testified that the Frankfort Police summoned paramedics to the police station because the men apparently ingested drugs; although the police believed one of the drugs was LSD, they did not know what the vial of liquid contained at that time.

Peter Hwang testified that he was a Special Agent for the Illinois State Police, Division of Criminal Investigations. On November 15, 1990, Special Agent Hwang went to the Frankfort Police station regarding a narcotics investigation. After speaking with Trooper Hoffman-Davis, Special Agent Hwang spoke to the individuals at the police station. Special Agent Hwang spoke to William Luedtke, after obtaining a written waiver of Miranda rights. According to Special Agent Hwang, Luedtke appeared to be under the influence of "something," but also understood everything Special Agent Hwang said. Luedtke told Special Agent Hwang that defendant's name was Bobby Ornelas, not "Rudy Ramos."

Luedtke also told Special Agent Hwang that defendant had been involved in a double homicide on the south side of Chicago two nights earlier. Luedtke stated that defendant had spoken of killing two people with a shotgun near a party to which defendant had been denied admittance.

Special Agent Hwang telephoned the Chicago Police Department, Area 2 Violent Crimes. Special Agent Hwang was informed that the Chicago Police were looking for Robert Ornelas in connection with the investigation of a double homicide. Special Agent Hwang was also informed that Area 2 detectives would be sent.

At approximately 11 to 11:30 a.m., Special Agent Hwang spoke to defendant, who was handcuffed to the wall of an interview room. Defendant confirmed that he was also named Ornelas. In Special Agent Hwang's opinion, defendant appeared "a little confused" and under the influence of narcotics at the time. Special Agent Hwang told defendant that he would take defendant to the Illinois State Police station in Joliet and that the Chicago Police Department was coming to talk to him.

Special Agent Hwang then transported defendant to the Illinois State Police District 5 headquarters in Romeoville. After a conversation with defendant, Special Agent Hwang went to lunch. Defendant was handcuffed to a chair in an interview room.

Two Chicago Police Detectives arrived at approximately 3 p.m. After the detectives spoke with defendant, they accompanied Special Agent Hwang to the Will County Jail, where the police obtained a written waiver of Miranda rights and a written statement from Luedtke. Special Agent Hwang stated that Luedtke was not under medical care at the time and appeared to be fine.

The police later returned to District 5 headquarters; at trial, the time was established as approximately 5 p.m. Chicago Police Detective Steven Brownfield, who was involved in the investigation of the double homicide and the questioning of defendant, testified that defendant was orally notified of his Miranda rights. Detective Brownfield testified that defendant admitted to the double murder, at which time he was arrested and charged with the offense.

The trial court denied the motion to quash arrest. Although the trial court did not rule on the legality of defendant's initial arrest, the court held that the arrest for murder was not an extension of the initial arrest. The trial court also held that there had been probable cause to arrest defendant for murder.

Defendant also filed a motion to suppress his statement to the police. The trial court denied this motion, ruling that defendant was coherent at the time he made the ...

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