WAUKEGAN, Ill. (STMW) – Marni Yang’s alibi showed signs of cracking when detectives told her how her own son contradicted her whereabouts the morning of Rhoni Reuter’s murder, according to videotapes of her interrogation reviewed during a pre-trial hearing Friday.
Yang claims she was home replacing the battery in her broken car the morning of Oct. 4, 2007, when Reuter was shot to death inside her Deerfield condo.
The problem with her story: Her teenage son called in sick from school and stayed home that day. He backed up his mother’s story at first, but after continued questioning, police claim he admitted to never seeing her around the house at the time of the murder.
“He came out and said, ‘It’s a lie. I’m not going to lie for my mother. She wasn’t home,’” Lake Zurich Detective Scott Frost, an investigator with the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, tells Yang.
Yang faces charges of first-degree murder and intentional homicide of an unborn child for allegedly gunning down Reuter, the long-time girlfriend of former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle.
Authorities claim Yang jealously rivaled for Gayle’s affection and conspired to kill Reuter, who was pregnant with Gayle’s daughter. They say Yang allegedly used an elaborate scheme to cover her tracks, including wearing a disguise, building a home-made silencer and using a throw-away cell phone while planning and carrying out the crime. On the video tapes, investigators try to lead Yang to believe her alibi is crumbling. They point out inconsistencies in her time-line leading up to the murder, cite witnesses who allegedly contradict her, and even suggest her children believed their mother could have committed the murder.
“Did you know [your daughter] told the other investigators she thought you could be responsible?” Waukegan Detective Charles Schletz tells Yang.
“Really? Did she say why?” Yang responds.
“She told us many things,” Schletz said.
In addition, investigators questioned why Yang would pay overnight shipping for two books on how to buy a homemade silencer, then spend more than $400 on the necessary materials at Home Depot within two months of the murder. On the tapes, Yang said the books were intended as a gag gift for a friend, who turned out not to be interested in them. Then she decided to use the materials to help one of her children make a gun silencer for a school science project, but they decided on another project instead.
Investigators also claimed witnesses had seen Yang with a gun that she claimed was stolen in a house burglary the year before the murder. She never filed a police report because, she said, she didn’t have adequate homeowner’s insurance to cover the losses.
Defense attorneys have moved to suppress the interrogation tapes from Yang’s upcoming trial. They claim investigators failed to properly advise Yang of the Miranda warning and cut off access to her attorney. On top of that, defense attorney William Hedrick tried unsuccessfully to prevent the tapes from playing during the motion hearing.
“I’m thinking of the members of the press covering this case,” Hedrick said. “And what I’m hearing strikes me as incredibly inadmissible speculation.”
Describing the recordings as “extremely prejudicial” and “off the wall by evidentiary standards,” Hedrick said, “It just makes the task almost impossible to select an unbiased jury.”
Lake County Judge Christopher Stride overruled the objection, saying he “will make every effort humanely possible to pick an unbiased jury.”
Last year, another judge, Victoria Rossetti, ruled against motions to change the venue of the trial to a different county and to put a gag order on investigators from speaking publicly about the case.
The exhibits reviewed in the pre-trial motions provide a glimpse of the prosecution’s case, which is expected to start early next year.
But the interrogation tapes, which the court will continue to review through next month, likely do not present the entire case. Police questioned Yang over a period of two days in January 2008, but ended up releasing her without charges. It was more than a year later when a friend of Yang’s allegedly cooperated with investigator and agreed to record their conversations that police charged her with the crime.
Yang has spent the last 19 months in jail.
— Pioneer Press, via the Sun-Times Media Wire
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)