Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division
Rehearing denied October 13, 2017
from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 13-CR-8303; the
Hon. James B. Linn, Judge, presiding.
Michael J. Pelletier, Patricia Mysza, and Jessica D. Ware, of
State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for
M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J.
Spellberg and Peter D. Fischer, Assistant State's
Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.
PRESIDING JUSTICE REYES delivered the judgment of the court,
with opinion. Justices Gordon and Lampkin concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Following a bench trial, defendant Daniel Neasom was
convicted of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West
2010)) and sentenced to 27 years' imprisonment. Defendant
appeals his conviction, arguing that his trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to advance a theory of second degree
murder. Defendant also contends that his 27-year prison
sentence is excessive. For the reasons set forth herein, we
affirm the judgment of the trial court.
2 Defendant was charged with two counts of first degree
murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2010)). Defendant
waived his right to a jury trial and, on July 29, 2014, the
case proceeded to a bench trial.
3 At trial, Calvin Sperling testified that, on the morning of
July 23, 2011, he and his co-worker Jonathan Schutt were
traveling southbound on South Kedzie Avenue after leaving a
worksite. As he drove his truck through the 5800 block of
South Kedzie, Sperling heard the sound of breaking glass and
a woman's voice screaming for help. Schutt, who was a
passenger in Sperling's vehicle, stuck his head out of
the truck's window and informed Sperling that a woman was
hanging out of the window of a nearby building. Seconds
later, Schutt exclaimed, "Oh, my god, she just fell from
the window." Sperling called 911 to report the incident
and drove his vehicle to an area one block north of the scene
to wait for the police to arrive.
4 When the police arrived, Sperling and Schutt told officers
what they had observed. As Sperling was speaking to police
officers, he observed a man climb out of a window located
above the woman's body. The man was hanging from a ledge
and attempted to scale the wall "as if he was
Spiderman." The man lost his grip and fell backward onto
the sidewalk below. On cross-examination, Sperling explained
that he did not observe the woman hanging out of the window
but did hear the glass break and woman scream.
5 Schutt testified that on that morning he left a worksite at
the intersection of 55th Street and South Kedzie Avenue with
Calvin Sperling. As they were traveling in the 5800 block of
South Kedzie, Sperling told Schutt that he heard the sound of
breaking glass, and Schutt stuck his head out of the
passenger side window to investigate the sound. Schutt
noticed broken glass on the sidewalk outside an apartment
building. He looked up and observed a woman hanging headfirst
out of a window. The woman's upper torso was completely
out of the window, her arms were flailing, and she was
screaming for help. Ten to fifteen seconds later, Schutt
observed the woman fall from the window and land head-first
on the sidewalk. Schutt told Sperling to call 911, and
Sperling drove his truck to a location just north of the
6 When police arrived at the scene, Sperling and Schutt
approached the officers and described the incident. Schutt
then observed a man hanging from the window out of which the
woman had fallen. Schutt turned away because he did not want
to see another person fall from the building, but he heard
the sound of the man hitting the ground.
7 On cross-examination, Schutt admitted that he did not
observe anyone push the woman out of the window and did not
observe anyone else near the window at that time.
8 Michael Divorski testified that he was the brother of the
woman who had fallen out of the window, whom he identified as
Cynthia Barnes. Divorski talked to Barnes the night before
her death. Barnes was homeless at the time and told Divorski
that she was going to try to find somewhere to stay that
night because it was raining.
9 Officer Hector Fuentes testified that, on July 23, 2011, he
was conducting routine patrol with his partner Officer Peter
Gurskis. At 5:17 a.m., the officers received a "person
down" call at the location at South Kedzie Avenue. When
they arrived on the scene, Fuentes observed the body of a
female, whom Gurskis recognized as Cynthia Barnes, lying on
the ground, surrounded by broken glass. Her body was located
in front of an apartment building with retail units on the
first floor. Fuentes looked up and observed a shattered
window on the third floor, directly above the body. He could
hear someone moving around inside the apartment building. He
remained on the sidewalk while Gurskis went inside the
building to investigate. Moments later, fire department
personnel followed Gurskis into the building with a
10 Fuentes could hear Gurskis and fire department personnel
using the sledgehammer. He then heard glass shatter, and
looked up to observe defendant shattering a window with a
clothes iron. Defendant, who was not wearing any clothes,
exited the building through the window. Fuentes shouted at
defendant, telling him to go back inside the building, and
defendant climbed back through the window. A few seconds
later, defendant climbed out of the previously shattered
window directly above the body. Defendant was wearing a pair
of sweat pants, and he attempted to climb down the building
wall. Fuentes observed defendant fall from the wall, and land
head-first on the sidewalk. Paramedics rushed to assist
defendant, placed him on a stretcher, and placed him inside
11 Officer Fuentes heard the paramedics calling for help from
inside the ambulance. He ran to the ambulance and observed
defendant flailing his arms and trying to get off the
stretcher. Fuentes assisted in holding defendant down while
the paramedics restrained him. The paramedics then
transported defendant to a hospital.
12 Officer Gurskis testified that he and Officer Fuentes were
on routine patrol on July 23, 2011, when they received a
"woman down" call and drove to South Kedzie Avenue.
There, Gurskis observed the body of Cynthia Barnes lying on
the sidewalk in front of an apartment building. She had blood
in her hair and was surrounded by broken glass. Gurskis
looked up and observed a broken window on the third floor of
the building. He entered the building and attempted to enter
apartment 304, but the door was locked. He could hear someone
walking on the wooden floor of the apartment. After attempts
to kick in the door failed, Gurskis called for the fire
department to come to the apartment with tools to open the
13 Fire department personnel arrived at the apartment door
with a sledgehammer and a prying tool. When the door was
opened, the responders had to move a refrigerator that had
been placed in front of the door. Gurskis described the
apartment as "in complete disarray, " with blood
all over the apartment and broken glass near the windows.
After observing that nobody was in the immediate living area,
Gurskis headed toward an area of the apartment where a door
had been barricaded by a box spring and bed frame. After
removing the barricades, he entered a bedroom, where he
observed two windows, one of which was broken. The broken
window had blood on it and was situated directly above the
victim's body. After finding a large knife with blood on
it, Gurskis left the apartment and drove to the hospital
where paramedics had taken defendant. Two days later, on July
25, 2011, Gurskis arrested defendant at the hospital.
Defendant was released without being charged, but was
rearrested after DNA and toxicology tests were completed.
14 Detective Keith Smith testified he arrived at South Kedzie
Avenue to investigate the death of Cynthia Barnes. When he
arrived, Barnes's body was still lying on the sidewalk.
While walking through the apartment, he noticed that the
bedroom had two windows, one of which was broken and situated
directly above Barnes's body.
15 Doctor Adrienne Segovia testified that she was an
assistant Cook County medical examiner and had conducted the
autopsy of Cynthia Barnes. Segovia detailed numerous external
injuries that Barnes had sustained and classified them as
sharp force injuries, blunt force injuries, and injuries that
had characteristics of both blunt and sharp force trauma.
Notable sharp force injuries were consistent with injuries
inflicted by glass and included a cut on the top of
Barnes's head and incised wounds on her face, left
forearm, left wrist, left hand, and left thigh. Notable blunt
force injuries included a star shaped wound on the top of
Barnes's head, lacerations on the inside of her lips,
bleeding of her left eye and ear, and bruises and scrapes on
her face, neck, chest, abdomen, arms, legs, and feet.
16 Regarding internal injuries, Dr. Segovia detailed
hemorrhages, a broken sternum, broken ribs, dislocation and
fracturing of the spine, and a fractured skull. Dr. Segovia
determined that the cause of death was multiple injuries due
to a fall from a ...