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People v. Caffey

October 18, 2001


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Freeman


Docket No. 86975-Agenda 3-March 2001.

On November 16, 1995, Debra Evans was fatally shot and stabbed in the Addison apartment where she lived with James Edwards and her children, Samantha, Joshua, and Jordan. Debra was nine months pregnant. The baby she was carrying, Elijah, was cut from her womb. Samantha was killed in the apartment with her mother. Joshua and Elijah were taken from the apartment. Jordan was left alone in the apartment with his dead mother and sister. The next day, police found Joshua's dead body in an alley in Maywood. Police arrested defendant, Fedell Caffey, that night. In connection with the murders and kidnappings of the members of the Evans family, defendant, his live-in girlfriend Jacqueline Annette Williams, and her cousin Laverne Ward were jointly indicted on several counts of first degree murder and aggravated kidnapping. They were tried separately.

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Du Page County, defendant was convicted of the first degree murder of Debra Evans and her daughter Samantha, and the aggravated kidnapping and murder of Debra's son Joshua. See 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a), 10-2(a) (West 1994). At a separate sentencing hearing, the same jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty and further determined that there were no mitigating circumstances sufficient to preclude imposition of that sentence. Accordingly, the trial court sentenced defendant to death on the murder convictions and to a consecutive 30-year prison term on the aggravated kidnapping conviction. The death sentence has been stayed pending direct review by this court. Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, §4(b); 134 Ill. 2d Rs. 603, 609(a). We affirm.


The State's evidence at trial was essentially as follows. On November 16, 1995, Debra Evans was nine months pregnant with her baby, whom she had named Elijah. Debra was scheduled to be hospitalized to have labor induced on November 19. Debra had three additional children: Samantha, age 10; Joshua, age 7; and Jordan, age 2. Debra and her children lived in an apartment in Addison with James Edwards.

Edwards worked across the street from his and Debra's apartment. On November 16, 1995, at around 5:30 p.m., he left the apartment and went to work. He returned home after leaving his job at 2:30 a.m. on November 17. The back door to the apartment was unlocked. When Edwards opened the door, Jordan greeted him. Edwards found Debra lying on the living room floor completely covered by a blanket. Edwards lifted the blanket and saw a large wound to her stomach. Elijah had been cut from Debra's womb. Edwards ran to the children's bedroom. He found Samantha lying on the floor completely covered by a blanket. He lifted the blanket and saw that Samantha's neck had been slashed. Joshua was missing. Edwards telephoned 911. Several items were missing from the apartment, including Edwards' Grambling State University Tigers starter jacket and a pair of poultry shears.

Also on November 17, between midnight and 1 a.m., Williams went to the apartment of Patrice Scott in Villa Park. Scott lived with Dwight Pruitt and her three daughters; her youngest daughter, Alexis, was only 1½ months old. Williams and Scott were friends; they had known each other for two to three years. Approximately one month prior to that night, Williams had told Scott that she was pregnant and that Williams was going to have the baby in November.

Williams' knock at the door awoke Pruitt. He arose, went to the door, and saw Williams and a boy. Pruitt returned to bed and told Scott, who answered the door. Scott saw a gray automobile parked outside. Williams was wearing Edwards' starter jacket and a white sweater spotted with blood. Joshua was wearing a T-shirt, coat, and boots; he was not wearing socks or pants.

Williams told Scott that Joshua's mother had been shot, and that Williams was going to visit her in the hospital. Williams asked Scott if Joshua could spend the night at Scott's apartment; Scott assented. Williams would retrieve Joshua in the morning. Williams also claimed to have given birth and would bring the new baby with her.

After Williams left, Joshua used the bathroom and removed his coat and boots. Scott put him to bed on the living room couch. She heard Joshua whimpering and crying during the night.

Later that morning, at daybreak, Scott heard Joshua crying. Scott arose with Alexis and entered the living room. Joshua was upset. He told Scott that he had to return to his home because Jordan was there alone, and because Edwards would not know where he, Joshua, was.

Joshua explained that four burglars had entered his home through a window and cut his mother and sister. Scott asked Joshua who were the burglars, and Joshua answered "Annette, Levern [sic] and Fedell," and a person Joshua called "Boo-Boo." Joshua repeated this more than three times. He explained that he was hiding and, as the burglars were leaving, he ran outside and bumped into Williams.

Pruitt was awake in the bedroom watching television with the volume lowered. He overheard Joshua name the four burglars: "Annette"; "Vern"; a name that sounded like "Vedelle," "Adelle," or "Ladelle"; and a fourth name that Pruitt could not understand. At that point, Pruitt entered the living room, greeted Joshua, and returned to the bedroom. Scott's two older daughters arose and prepared for school. They greeted Joshua; one of them read to him. After they left for school, Joshua told Scott "to lock the door because the burglars might come back."

Around 9 a.m., Williams returned to Scott's apartment. Williams drove the same gray automobile that Scott saw the previous night. Scott told Williams what Joshua had said. Williams became very upset with Joshua. She accused him of lying, she told him that "he talked too much," and she ordered him "to shut his damn mouth." In response, Joshua repeatedly asserted that he was telling the truth, and that Williams knew he was telling the truth because she was there.

Williams told Joshua that he had to take the medicine his mother had left for him. Joshua replied that he did not take any medicine. Williams asked Scott for a glass of water, which Scott retrieved from the kitchen. Williams took the water and led Joshua into the kitchen. Joshua came out of the kitchen gagging, went to the bathroom and vomited.

Williams said she had gifts for Alexis and wanted to check on her own baby. Scott asked Pruitt to watch Alexis, but he refused. So Scott left the apartment with Alexis, Williams, and Joshua.

Home alone, Pruitt continued to watch television. On the midday news, he saw a report regarding the murders. The report included a photograph of Debra and her children. Pruitt recognized Joshua in the photograph. Pruitt dressed, left the apartment, and looked for a telephone. He could not find one that worked and eventually returned home.

Williams first drove to a nearby store and then to the Schaumburg townhouse that she shared with defendant. It was a three-level residence: garage and laundry room on the bottom floor, living room and kitchen on the middle floor, and bedrooms on the top floor. Williams drove into the garage. They left the car and went up to Williams' living room. Williams invited Scott "to look around," since it was her first time in Williams' home. Joshua stayed with Alexis in the living room. On being called by Williams, Scott went upstairs and into a bedroom. Defendant was lying on a bed with a "really pale" baby, who had "streams of blond hair coming down from his cap" and "tape across his navel."

Scott returned to the living room, where she gave Alexis a bottle of milk. Later, Scott heard Williams' voice instructing her to bring Joshua downstairs to the laundry room.

Scott did so. In the room, Scott saw defendant, Williams, and an unidentified man who soon thereafter departed. Scott denied that this man was Bo Wilson. Joshua was directed to sit on a daybed. Defendant asked Williams why she had brought Scott to the house and why she had not taken Joshua to "the projects" as defendant had instructed her. Williams answered that Joshua "talked too much" and that he knew their names: he knew defendant, Williams, and Ward.

Williams picked up a white cord. Joshua was ordered to lean forward. Defendant and Williams, each pulling on an end of the cord, began to strangle Joshua. He screamed and clutched at the cord. Scott screamed and pushed Williams, who released her end.

As Joshua was crying and rubbing his neck, Williams left the laundry room, returned with a knife, and placed it on the bed. Scott screamed and asked Williams to take her and Joshua to Scott's home. Williams directed Scott to retrieve Alexis. Scott took Joshua and went upstairs. She tried to leave through the front door, but it was locked.

Scott, with Alexis and Joshua, returned downstairs. Defendant warned Scott not to say anything, or else, according to Scott, he would "get me and my daughters." Defendant directed Williams to take Scott home. They all went to the garage and got in the car. Scott sat in the front passenger seat with Alexis. Joshua sat in the back seat on the passenger side. Defendant entered the car on the rear driver side. Scott looked in the back of the car and saw defendant repeatedly stab Joshua. Williams stood along the driver's side of the car and appeared to be reaching inside the car and holding Joshua. He was gasping and kicking the front seat.

Williams sat in the driver's seat, and defendant told her that "she knew where to go." They drove to Maywood, where defendant and Williams took Joshua from the car and helped him walk to the rear of a building. Defendant and Williams returned without Joshua. Williams left defendant in Maywood and drove Scott to her apartment.

At approximately 12:15 p.m., Williams and Scott returned to Scott's apartment. At Williams' request, Scott gave her cleaning supplies for her car. Scott denied helping Williams clean the car. Greeting Scott, Pruitt told her to lock the door, and that he would telephone police. When Pruitt left, he saw Williams cleaning her car. Eventually, Williams drove away.

Pruitt found a telephone and contacted Addison police. Several police departments joined in the investigation. A police car picked Pruitt up and returned him to his apartment. Scott and Pruitt subsequently left the apartment with police. Scott led police to the building where defendant and Williams had dumped Joshua. Police recovered Joshua's corpse. Scott admitted that she did not initially tell police that Joshua had named defendant and "Boo-Boo" as two of the burglars. She explained that she feared defendant.

At 10:45 p.m., police went to defendant's and Williams' townhouse. They were not at home, but Williams' children and their friends were there, with her oldest daughter, age 11 or 12, baby-sitting. At 11:45 p.m., defendant and Williams returned home. Police arrested them as they entered the dwelling. Williams was carrying Elijah, who had a bloody piece of gauze taped over his navel. Defendant was wearing Edwards' starter jacket, the right cuff of which was stained with Elijah's blood.

Police recovered the following evidence. In Debra's apartment, in the living room, a vehicle emissions test notice addressed to Debra had a bloody fingerprint. The State's expert opined that it was Williams' fingerprint. The bathroom vanity had blood on it; the blood was subsequently determined to be Elijah's. The missing poultry shears were found on the sidewalk in front of the apartment. There was blood on the shears, and one of its handles was broken. DNA tests revealed that the blood belonged to Samantha.

Police also recovered evidence from Scott's apartment. Investigators found an empty iodine bottle in the kitchen garbage.

In a garbage bag in the garage of defendant's and Williams' townhouse, police found a white coaxial cable with blood on it. DNA tests revealed that the blood belonged to Joshua. Scott identified the cable as the one defendant and Williams used to strangle Joshua. In the dishwasher, police found a "rusty wooden handled butcher knife," which Scott identified as the knife that defendant used to stab Joshua. On the backseat carpet of defendant's and Williams' car, police found blood that had been treated with cleaner. DNA tests revealed that the blood belonged to Joshua. In a bedroom closet, police found a bottle of baby lotion with a stain on it. DNA tests revealed that the stain was a mixture of the body fluids from Joshua and Elijah. On the kitchen counter, police found two counterfeit birth certificates indicating, inter alia, that a baby was born to Williams and defendant at a hospital on November 16, 1995. The documents had been typed on Vikki Iacullo's typewriter.

Also, on November 18, police found a bed sheet, stained with Joshua's blood, seven blocks from where his body was found. A matching sheet and pillowcase were found in defendant's and Williams' townhouse. On December 2, Iacullo and Dorothy Hale directed police to Herrick Lake in Wheaton, where they found a .25-caliber pistol. Police determined that the gun had fired the bullet that was recovered from Debra's head.

The State presented the following forensic evidence. Dr. Shaku Teas performed autopsies on Debra and Samantha. The cause of Samantha's death was multiple stab wounds. Samantha had seven stab and incised wounds to the neck. Dr. Teas explained that a stab wound is deeper than it is long, and an incised wound is longer than it is deep. Samantha also had several incised wounds to the left arm, which Dr. Teas opined were defense wounds.

Dr. Teas determined that Debra was shot in the back of the head. The bullet traveled though the right side of the brain to the area behind the forehead. This was the main cause of death. Debra also had four incised wounds to the neck. These wounds contributed to her death. Also, there was a 13-inch, jagged, horizontal wound across the lower abdomen. The umbilical cord was protruding therefrom. This deep wound penetrated the abdominal cavity and the small bowel. The uterus had been sliced open. Dr. Teas opined that all of the stab and incised wounds to Samantha and Debra, including the wound to Debra's abdomen, could have been caused by the poultry shears found in front of Debra's apartment.

Dr. Christopher Olson was Debra's obstetrician-gynecologist. The blood spatters around Debra's body suggested to Dr. Olson the presence of blood pressure. He opined that Debra's heart was still beating when Elijah was cut out of her womb.

Also, Dr. Olson explained that three persons are required to perform a Caesarean in an appropriate medical manner. At a minimum, more than two hands are needed. Dr. Olson opined that Elijah's removal from Debra's womb required more than one person.

Dr. Joseph Cogan performed an autopsy on Joshua. His neck had ligature marks, which indicated strangulation. The marks were caused by a cord wrapped around his neck at least twice. Joshua's neck had several stab wounds, and he had no defensive wounds. Also, aspiration had occurred, i.e., Joshua had inhaled his own vomit. Dr. Cogan opined that Joshua was first strangled and then stabbed, and the aspiration occurred after he was stabbed.

The ligature marks were consistent with the white coaxial cable found in defendant's and Williams' garage. The stab wounds were consistent with the butcher knife found in their dish washer. The unusual damage to Joshua's lung tissue from the aspirated stomach contents was consistent with the ingestion of iodine. Joshua died from multiple injuries: the strangulation, the stab wounds, and the aspiration of the stomach contents. Joshua would not have died immediately from his injuries, but he would not have lived for more than 30 minutes.

The above evidence describes the circumstances of the murders and kidnappings of members of the Evans family. In addition, the State presented evidence concerning defendant, Williams, and Ward in the months preceding the crimes, and evidence of their relationships with the Evans family.

Debra and Edwards had been in a relationship since 1989. Debra's sister described it as "on again off again." They had separated several times. In March 1995, Debra and Edwards reconciled, and he moved back in their apartment.

While Debra and Edwards had been separated, Laverne Ward lived with Debra. When Debra and Ward lived together in 1993, he beat her more than once. Ward was the biological father of Jordan. Debra told her sister that Edwards fathered Elijah, which Edwards believed to be the case. However, subsequent DNA tests revealed that Ward was the biological father of Elijah.

Dawn Killeen was a neighbor of defendant and Williams. Killeen was well acquainted with defendant, Williams, and Ward. Killeen's husband and defendant sold drugs together. Killeen and Ward were crack cocaine addicts and took drugs together. Also, Ward was a courier for defendant.

In May 1995, Killeen went to the apartment of defendant and Williams to borrow a vacuum cleaner. Among those in the apartment was Vikki Iacullo. Ward entered the apartment screaming that Debra was not allowing him to see Jordan. According to Killeen, Ward "said that he was tired of her shit and he wanted to end it. He wanted to solve the problem. He wanted to kill the bitch." Defendant asked if Ward wanted a knife or a gun. Williams advised Ward to calm down because he would be the most likely suspect. In September 1995, Williams told Killeen that she was pregnant.

During the last few weeks prior to the murders, Ward telephoned Debra several times. During these conversations, Edwards overheard Debra arguing with Ward.

Approximately one week prior to the murders, Williams went to Debra's apartment and asked for her. Williams and Edwards spoke briefly. She asked Edwards about his work schedule. Edwards told Williams that he went to work at about 6 p.m. and returned home at about 2:30 a.m.

On the afternoon of November 16, 1995, John Pettaway, Williams' cousin, saw defendant, Williams, and Ward together. As Pettaway and Ward were driving around Wheaton, Ward saw defendant and asked Pettaway to stop. Defendant and Williams were in an automobile parked in a lot. Ward left Pettaway's car and spoke to defendant and Williams for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Ward returned to Pettaway's car and they left. Pettaway and Ward went to the home of Pettaway's brother. Ward told Pettaway that he had to find defendant. When they left the house, they encountered defendant and Williams driving down a street. Defendant and Williams pulled to one side. Ward again left Pettaway's car and spoke with defendant and Williams for approximately 20 minutes. Defendant and Williams then drove away. Later that afternoon, Ward again told Pettaway that he had to meet defendant. Pettaway drove to the school where, unbeknownst to him, Williams' children attended. They did not find defendant.

Tina Martin, Williams' sister, shared a house with their mother in Wheaton. In April 1995, Williams told Martin that Williams was pregnant. On November 16, at around 6:50 p.m., Ward went to Martin's house. There, Ward had a telephone conversation with Debra. Martin overheard a portion of the conversation, during which Ward asked Debra: "Is it his or is it mine?" Ward left Martin's home at around 8:10 p.m.

Kasandra Turner had met defendant and Williams in April 1995; Williams then told Turner that Williams was pregnant. On November 16, between 5:30 and 6 p.m., defendant telephoned Turner. Defendant told Turner that he and Williams were going to have the baby.

On November 16, between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m., Jacci Sullivan, who lived in Debra's apartment complex, heard a gunshot. At about 9:15 p.m., Tennie Clay, who also lived in the complex, saw four persons standing on a sidewalk talking to each other. She believed that three of them were African-American and one was a light-skinned Hispanic. One of them was wearing a dark-colored starter jacket, and the others were wearing black, hooded sweatshirts or jackets.

That evening, Joy Wilson, age 15, and Tiffany Wilson, age 16, were baby-sitting at Tiffany's house. Tiffany was Joy's aunt and also a cousin of Ward and Williams. Tiffany and Joy were watching the 9 p.m. news when Ward entered the house. He was carrying a plastic grocery bag that contained something. Ward went directly to a bathroom.

According to Tiffany, Ward emerged from the bathroom wearing different pants and still carrying the grocery bag. He and Joy left the apartment. Ward later returned to Tiffany's home without the bag.

Joy saw more. According to Joy, when Ward entered the house, his pants had a hole in the knee, and his pants and T-shirt had bloodstains. When Ward emerged from the bathroom, he was wearing different clothes, and the grocery bag appeared fuller.

The family dog then frightened Joy and caused her to run outside. She saw a four-door gray automobile with three persons inside-two men in the front seat and a woman in the back seat. Joy identified them all-two of them were Williams and defendant. They were sounding the car horn and calling for Ward. Carrying the bag, he got in the car, and they left.

Mohammid Siddiqui was a clerk at a Seven-Eleven store at Golf Road and Walnut Lane in Schaumburg. He saw defendant and a woman matching the description of Williams enter the store on November 17, 1995, between 1:30 and 2 a.m. Defendant bought baby wipes and candy. The store register tape records a sale at 1:49 a.m. for one item at $1.99, which was the price of baby wipes, and one item at $0.99 cents.

At approximately 3:30 a.m., Williams telephoned her sister, Tina Martin, and told her that she, Williams, had just given birth. Vikki Iacullo then spoke to Martin to confirm Williams' announcement. Martin then asked to speak with defendant. She asked defendant if a baby were really there, and defendant answered in the affirmative.

Martin and her mother then drove to Iacullo's house. There, Martin and her mother saw Iacullo, Williams, defendant, and a baby. Iacullo explained to Martin and her mother that Williams came to Iacullo's house and then went into labor. Iacullo said that she rushed Williams to a hospital, where she gave birth. Iacullo gave this explanation in defendant's presence. The baby's complexion was so light that Martin asked Iacullo, who was Caucasian, if the baby were hers. Martin's mother declared that she did not believe that the baby belonged to Williams and defendant, and then asked to leave. The visit of Martin and her mother lasted only approximately three to five minutes.

That afternoon, John Pettaway saw Williams and two of her children at a car wash. One of Williams' daughters was vacuuming the backseat area of her car.

Defendant, Williams, and Ward were jointly charged in a 24-count indictment: 21 counts of first degree murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of armed robbery. The three charged individuals were tried separately. See People v. Williams, 193 Ill. 2d 306, 314-15 (2000). In defendant's case, the State entered a nolle prosequi on 10 of the murder counts and the armed robbery count. At the close of the State's case, the trial court directed a verdict of not guilty on one of the remaining aggravated kidnapping counts. Defendant was ultimately tried for the intentional and knowing murder of Debra, Samantha, and Joshua (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 1994)), their felony murder based on the felonies of aggravated kidnapping and armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(3) (West 1994)), and the aggravated kidnapping of Joshua (720 ILCS 5/10-2(a)(3) (West 1994)).

The defense case was essentially as follows. The theory of the defense was that Williams was possessive and jealous of defendant. Williams planned to cement her relationship with defendant by claiming to be pregnant. Williams, Ward, and Iacullo conspired to take Elijah. Those three committed the charged offenses. Defendant was not part of their conspiracy; rather, he was the purpose of it.

Defendant was born in 1973. In 1992, defendant quit his job at United Parcel Service to sell drugs. Defendant began dating Williams in the spring of 1994. She had three children. Unbeknownst to defendant and others, Williams had a tubal ligation in 1986 and could no longer have children.

Shortly after defendant and Williams began dating, Williams learned that defendant had a one-year-old daughter by his former girlfriend Latrina Montgomery. Defendant continued to have a sexual relationship with Montgomery and other women while he was living with Williams. Because she was jealous of Montgomery's relationship with defendant, Williams had physical and verbal altercations with Montgomery from 1994 through 1995.

In February 1995, Williams told defendant that she was pregnant. She had previously feigned pregnancies. In June 1995, defendant, Williams, and her children moved to their Schaumburg townhouse.

At around 7:15 p.m. on the evening of November 16, 1995, defendant, Williams, and her children returned home from a school basketball game. Williams left shortly thereafter.

Defendant admitted that he telephoned Kasandra Turner earlier that evening. However, he denied announcing to her that he and Williams were going to have a baby. Defendant explained that Turner bought drugs from him the previous day and paid for them with a check. Defendant telephoned Turner to inform her that the check had bounced. After his arrest, police found the check in the glove box of defendant's car.

Between 6:30 and 7 p.m., Joyce Holtz went to defendant's home and bought cocaine from defendant. She stayed for approximately three minutes. Between 8 and 9 p.m., defendant watched a television program with Christina, one of Williams' daughters. When she went to bed, sometime between 8:05 and 9 p.m., defendant was still home.

At 1:30 a.m. on November 17, defendant was worried because Williams had not yet returned home. He went to the nearby Seven-Eleven store to use a payphone. He denied buying baby wipes at that time. Defendant telephoned Tina Martin and asked her to page Williams. Defendant then telephoned Iacullo and returned home.

At approximately 2:30 a.m., Iacullo drove into defendant's driveway. Defendant went to Iacullo's car; Williams was inside holding a baby. Indoors, Iacullo told defendant that Williams was at Iacullo's house when she went into labor. Iacullo drove Williams to a hospital where she had the baby. Williams had to leave the hospital because she did not have health insurance.

Defendant was initially skeptical of Williams' and Iacullo's story. However, he began to believe it because a baby was there at 2:30 a.m. The three of them took the baby to Iacullo's house to retrieve Williams' car. At the house, Williams telephoned Tina Martin and, as described earlier, informed her of the baby.

Defendant and Williams left Iacullo and drove to the same Seven-Eleven store where defendant was earlier. He bought baby wipes at that time. The store register tape records a 4:49 a.m. purchase of an item costing $1.99, which was the price of baby wipes. They returned home at around 5 a.m. Defendant lay next to the baby and fell asleep.

Defendant awoke at around noon, performed an errand with Williams and the baby, and returned home between 1:30 and 2 p.m. Williams then left to pick up her children from school. Defendant stayed home with the baby. Williams returned between 4:30 and 5 p.m.

At approximately 8:50 p.m., Iacullo paged defendant. He, Williams, and the baby went to Iacullo's house. Iacullo gave defendant a Grambling Tigers jacket, calling it a "Daddy's Day present." Defendant had left home without a coat because their car was sufficiently heated. They returned home, where they were arrested, with defendant wearing the jacket, and Williams carrying the baby.

Iacullo was charged with obstruction of justice regarding her involvement in these crimes. Invoking the fifth amendment, she refused to testify at defendant's trial.

The defense attacked the credibility of the State's witnesses and suggested inconsistencies and contradictions in their testimony. Defendant denied any involvement in these crimes.

At the close of the evidence, the jury returned general verdicts of guilty of the first degree murders of Debra, Samantha, and Joshua. The jury also returned a general verdict of guilty of the aggravated kidnapping of Joshua.

In the eligibility phase of the death sentencing hearing, the jury returned seven separate eligibility verdicts. The jury found beyond a reasonable doubt the presence of the following statutory aggravating factors. Regarding Debra's murder, the jury found that defendant was convicted of murdering two or more persons. See 720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(3) (West 1994). Regarding Samantha's murder, the jury found that: defendant was convicted of murdering two or more persons; and the murder of Samantha, who was under the age of 12, was brutal and heinous. See 720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(3), (b)(7) (West 1994). Regarding Joshua's murder, the jury found that: defendant was convicted of murdering two or more persons; Joshua was killed in the course of another felony, either aggravated kidnapping or armed robbery; the murder of Joshua, who was under the age of 12, was brutal and heinous; and defendant murdered Joshua to prevent him from giving material assistance to the State. See 720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(3), (b)(6), (b)(7), (b)(8) (West 1994).

At the second stage of the death sentencing hearing, the State's case in aggravation included the following evidence. In March 1991, a state trooper stopped defendant for speeding. A protective pat-down search of defendant revealed a box of ammunition. Defendant was arrested for unlawful possession of ammunition and traffic offenses. Defendant received court supervision.

In July 1991, police stopped defendant for speeding. He was driving with two passengers. Hidden under the left side of the front passenger seat was a loaded pistol with two freshly discharged cartridges.

In February 1992, Nakia Weaver, a high school girlfriend of defendant, witnessed defendant and another student fight in a classroom. After school that day, defendant found Weaver, who was sitting in the front passenger side of a car. Weaver rolled down the window. Blaming her for the fight, defendant slapped Weaver in the face. Weaver defended herself, and defendant punched her in the face and then left. Weaver reported the attack to police, and defendant was charged with battery. However, Weaver did not appear in court because she was not notified of defendant's court date.

In September 1994, defendant, standing in the middle of a residential street, fired multiple rounds from a handgun. It was noontime on that particular day, and children were walking and playing on the street. One bullet shattered an automobile windshield. Defendant was apprehended and subsequently convicted of criminal damage to property, unlawful possession of a firearm, and unlawful use of a weapon. He was sentenced to one year of conditional discharge and 10 days of community service.

In December 1994, police encountered defendant and another man in a parked automobile. Defendant was sitting in the front passenger seat. A consensual search of the car revealed a loaded handgun under defendant's seat. A charge of unlawful use of a weapon was ultimately dismissed.

In January 1995, defendant struck Gregory Flowers in the head with a beer bottle, accusing him of stealing a part from defendant's automobile. Flowers received a three-inch laceration. He did not sign a criminal complaint, and defendant was not charged.

In July 1995, a police officer saw defendant chase a vehicle down a street. The officer then saw defendant return to and enter another car. The officer approached; defendant was sitting in the front passenger seat. The officer knew that there was a warrant for defendant's arrest for failure to appear in court. The officer ordered defendant out of the car. As defendant exited the car, the officer observed a small handgun, a pillowcase, and a digital scale on the floor in the area where defendant was seated. The gun was a BB gun, and the pillowcase contained $125.78 in coins. Defendant also had on his person $235 in currency. Defendant volunteered that the coins were his, but he denied knowledge of the BB gun, the scale, or the $235. He was charged on the warrant for failure to appear in court.

The State lastly presented victim impact evidence. Sam Evans, Debra's father; Wendy Williams, Debra's sister; and Scott Gilbert, Samantha's father, each read a victim impact statement.

Defendant's case in mitigation included the following evidence. Sonia Glover, defendant's great aunt, testified as follows. In his childhood, defendant lived with his maternal grandfather, James Caffey; his grandmother, Winifred; his mother, Elaine; and his uncle David. Although they claimed to know the identity of defendant's father, that man never acknowledged defendant as his son.

Defendant grew up in a dysfunctional household. Winifred was a chronic schizophrenic and was regularly hospitalized at several institutions. At the time of the death sentencing hearing, she was in a permanent facility. Winifred attempted suicide several times both before and after defendant was born. In defendant's presence, she would see things and hear voices that were not there. Also, defendant's mother was mentally ill. She took LSD before and after she gave birth to defendant.

Defendant had a good relationship with his grandfather, who was defendant's male role model. In 1991, James Caffey died of cancer, in his home, with defendant there.

While in high school, defendant began a relationship with Latrina Montgomery. They had a daughter, Vanessa. Defendant's uncle David also had children. Defendant cared for these children and never lost his temper with them or struck them.

Glover's thoughts of defendant were "very positive" because "[h]e grew up through difficult times." Noting defendant's childhood home, Glover believed that defendant has "somewhat been a victim." Glover also noted that when defendant reached high school, he had joined a street gang. According to Glover: "This introduced him to a lifestyle of fast living, fast money, and absolute hell."

Defendant's uncle David amplified much of Glover's testimony. He added the following. He was raised as defendant's brother because he was only four years older than defendant. Both defendant's mother and grandmother were paranoid schizophrenics. They always argued, which caused defendant to become withdrawn and quiet. David never saw defendant lose his temper with his daughter or David's three children.

Defendant's grandfather treated defendant like a son. His grandfather's death deeply affected defendant and upset the entire household. David added that defendant became involved in a street gang and sold drugs. However, these activities were not connected.

Defendant's fourth grade teacher, Neacy White, testified that in her classroom defendant was quiet, helpful, respectful, and obedient. She believed that defendant knew the difference between right and wrong and, to her knowledge, defendant was not placed in learning disability or special education classes.

Defendant's cousins Gary Smart and Ronalda Robinson each testified regarding defendant's loving attitude toward his family. According to Smart, defendant never acted violently toward his family. Defendant always cared for his mother; he always gave her money as needed. When defendant became a teenager, he grew more independent from his extended family. Defendant "all of a sudden, he had things, and you'd wonder where he got them from."

According to Robinson, defendant was the same age as her two older sons. Defendant visited her home often and spent much time with them. He also played with her younger children. Defendant was very loving and caring toward his daughter Vanessa. Robinson never saw defendant react violently to these children; he never lost his patience with them or hit them. He also attended church services with Robinson, who was a church elder.

George Savarese, Ph.D., a licensed clinical social worker, prepared a "Psychosocial Developmental Evaluation" of defendant. In preparing this evaluation, Dr. Savarese interviewed defendant, his family members, neighbors, and teachers. He also reviewed various birth, medical, psychiatric, and school records. The purpose of the evaluation was to determine whether there were "developmental stressors" that occurred in defendant's life. Dr. Savarese described a "developmental stressor" as any event or circumstance that occurred in a person's life that is an obstacle to normal development. Dr. Savarese searched for possible stressors through all stages of defendant's life, including prior to his birth. Dr. Savarese then formed an opinion as to how those stressors impacted defendant's behavioral functioning, emotional coping, and cognitive ability.

In his testimony, Dr. Savarese referred extensively to his written evaluation. His testimony included all of the information supplied by the above-mentioned mitigation witnesses.

Dr. Savarese testified regarding defendant's childhood household. His testimony supplied additional information regarding defendant's mother, Elaine: her mental illness, her abuse of drugs and alcohol, and her resulting inability to care for defendant. Essentially, all she could do was sleep and abuse substances, if she were not hospitalized.

Dr. Savarese provided further details regarding defendant's grandmother, Winifred: her mental illness, her substance abuse, her repeated suicide attempts, her repeated physical fights with defendant's mother, and several examples of her bizarre behavior. For example, when defendant was a teenager, she would strip naked and walk into his room; defendant would have to dress her.

Dr. Savarese supplied additional information regarding the men in defendant's household. Defendant's grandfather, James, provided defendant with a model of how to cope with this chaotic household. James would occasionally leave the household to live with a girlfriend. However, James would return to take Elaine or Winifred to a hospital as needed. Defendant's uncle David sold crack cocaine from their home.

Also, later in his life, defendant confronted the man family members claimed was his father. However, the man told defendant that he and several other men had group sex with his mother. Thus, Dr. Savarese testified, the man "disavowed he was his [defendant's] father and said no one was really clear on who his father was *** [a]nd no one would take credit for who was, in fact, his father."

Dr. Savarese formed several opinions regarding how defendant's childhood household affected him. Due to his chaotic and dysfunctional household, defendant had the sense of not being cared for and a fear of abandonment or rejection. The substance abuse in the household normalized that behavior for defendant and impacted his decision to sell drugs. Defendant began to sell drugs and escalated his exposure to street gangs because there was no one at home to limit that behavior.

Dr. Savarese testified regarding defendant's adult relationships. Defendant became involved with two women at the same time: Latrina Montgomery, the mother of his daughter Vanessa, and Williams. Dr. Savarese opined that defendant was in the same ...

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