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Testimony Underway In Marni Yang Trial

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Marni Yang, Rhoni Reuter

Marni Yang (left) was convicted of killing Rhoni Reuter (right) and her unborn child in 2007. Prosecutors said Yang killed Reuter, the girlfriend of former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle, to eliminate her as a romantic rival. (Credit: Deerfield Police Department/CBS)

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UPDATED 03/04/11 4:52 p.m.

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS/WBBM) – Lake County prosecutors said Friday that Marni Yang was so obsessed with former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle that she shot and killed another woman, Rhoni Reuter, when she learned Reuter was pregnant with Gayle’s child.

Marni Yang, 43, is on trial, accused of shooting and killing Rhoni Reuter, 42, and her unborn child in Reuter’s Deerfield condo on Oct. 4, 2007. Reuter was seven months pregnant with the Gayle’s daughter at the time, and the baby also died.

Yang faces charges of first-degree murder and intentional homicide of an unborn child.

In their opening statement Friday, the prosecution painted Marni Yang as obsessed with Gayle. For the first time, it was also revealed Yang had a sexual relationship with the former football star, something Gayle always denied.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser reports

Prosecutors said Yang and Gayle were having a sexual relationship. Sometimes Yang was working as his realtor, sometimes she was his sexual partner.

When Yang found out that Gayle’s girlfriend Rhonie Rueter was pregnant that “was a game changer” for Yang, according to Assistant Lake County State’s Attorney Pat Fix.

After that, Yang started doing background checks on Gayle’s other girlfriends and used the website Mapquest to get Reuter’s address.

Prosecutors also have said Yang 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.

Prosecutors said she bought a book online on how to build a silencer and had it shipped overnight to her home. The next day, she bought parts to build a silencer to be fitted on a gun she inherited from her uncle.

Yang allegedly planned the murder for months, but Fix said she made “one horrendous mistake.” She talked to her friend, Christi Paschen, about her plans.

Fix said Paschen will testify that Yang told her she was planning to kill Yang and, on several occasions, Paschen tried to talk Yang out of it. Paschen eventually wore a wire and recorded two conversations at a Denny’s restaurant.

Fix said the jury will hear Yang, in her own words, tell Paschen everything that she did. Yang allegedly laid in wait outside Reuter’s apartment and, when Reuter opened the door, Yang shot her six times.

The first two shots were fired at the unborn baby, Fix said. The last of the six shots were fired into Reuter’s head as she lay on the ground in a pool of blood.

Yang has claimed she was home replacing the battery in her broken car at the time, but her teenage son told police he didn’t see her around at the time of the murder.

In the defense’s opening statement, Yang’s lawyer said she was not obsessed with Gayle. The two met at a Bears convention and she eventually learned that Gayle had 18 or 19 girlfriends.

Defense attorney William Hedrick said that, in spite of other potential suspects – the other girlfriends – police focused solely on Yang from the start. He said that the Lake County Major Crimes Task force was obsessed with Yang.

Hedrick acknowledged the murders were a tragedy, but he said the greater tragedy was visited on Yang.

“She’s a victim. We all know what happened with her and the fact she’s standing trial for a horrendous murder. She is a single mother with three small children and they don’t have the evidence to back up their charges, period,” Hedrick said.

Yang’s defense clearly plans to go after Paschen, the prosecution’s star witness. Hedrick will try to portray her as “goofy.” He plans to show that Paschen claimed she was hired by the military to read the minds of terrorists.

Gayle also is expected to testify for the prosecution during the trial, which is expected to last two weeks.

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