[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., ILL., N.Y.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jul 16 22:25:45 CDT 2007
Man accused of burning girlfriend alive
A man accused of dousing his girlfriend with gasoline during an argument,
setting her on fire and then claiming she was injured in a kitchen
explosion has been charged with murder.
Terry Leigh Lee, a 44-year-old Child Protective Services case worker, died
Sunday after she was burned over 90 percent of her body at her Conroe home
near Houston late Saturday night. Neighbors said they called 911 after
John Dodd ran to their home, saying there had been an explosion.
Conroe Police Sgt. Mike Tindall said investigators believe the couple
arrived at Lee's home after a night out. During an argument, investigators
believe, Dodd then grabbed a can of gas, doused Lee, then ignited it.
Lee had been a Montgomery County caseworker and was a past winner of the
Texas CPS caseworker of the year award.
Dodd, 41, was in the Montgomery County Jail and is charged with murder.
Bond is set at $250,000.
(source: Associated Press)
Concern aired about suspect before slaying Acquaintance: ---- Agencies
told of drug use, violent behavior
A young man's life might have been spared - had authorities better
monitored suspected murderer Mitchell Erin Wachholtz, his acquaintances
Police charged Wachholtz on July 3 with the murder of Chase Pendleton, 21,
who was fatally shot at a local convenience store.
About a month prior to the shooting, Wachholtz's former roommate, Earl Ray
Miller, said he alerted more than one agency that Wachholtz was using
drugs, carrying a firearm and behaving violently - actions that violated
the terms of his early release from prison.
Miller said he alerted officials with the Lubbock parole office and Texas
Department of Family and Protective Services of Wachholtz's behavior.
"If (authorities) would have went in sooner, a citizen would be alive
today," Miller, 47, wrote in an e-mail to The Avalanche-Journal.
The Lubbock parole office did receive an anonymous phone call about
Wachholtz's drug use June 12, said a spokesman with the Texas Department
of Criminal Justice, of which the office is a part. That same day,
Wachholtz's parole officer visited his home and "took appropriate action,"
the spokesman, Jason Clark, said. He declined to comment about the type of
action taken, citing privacy laws.
In addition, Clark said the office never knew Wachholtz owned a firearm.
Miller moved out of the house he shared with Wachholtz and Wachholtz's
girlfriend because of the man's volatile behavior. When Miller left, his
nieces - legally under the custody of Wachholtz's girlfriend - still lived
there, he said. His and other calls to the Texas Department of Family and
Protective Services led to the children's removal from the home just weeks
prior to the shooting of Pendleton, he said.
Oficials with the department said they could "neither confirm nor deny"
State and federal privacy laws permit the department to comment on
investigations only in certain circumstances - for instance, after the
death of a child, said Greg Cunningham, a department spokesman.
Cunningham said the department does alert proper authorities when it
discovers criminal activity during an investigation.
If not for a Texas law, Wachholtz would have been in prison at the time of
Pendleton's murder, which happened at a 7-Eleven on 3802 34th St.
Pendleton died in a parking space as his older brother, Quentin Pendleton,
held him in his arms, Quentin said. The store's surveillance footage shows
someone who resembles Wachholtz - a lanky man at 6 feet 3 inches tall -
pointing a gun at 2 people, Marcus Smith and Chase Pendleton, who were
exiting the store. Witnesses identified Wachholtz as the shooter.
In November 2003, Wachholtz was sentenced to spend five years in the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice for the aggravated assault of his wife.
Records show he dragged her across a driveway, broke her nose and
threatened to kill her. He also was convicted of assaulting her in 2000.
Despite his violent past and a 2003 recommendation against parole from the
Lubbock Criminal District Attorney's Office, Wachholtz was released from
prison in 2006 on mandatory supervision, a type of release provided by law
for certain groups of offenders.
Eligible offenders are released when the amount of time they have served
and the amount of credit they have earned in prison for good behavior
equals the length of their sentence, according to the Texas Department of
Until 1996, this type of release was automatic. Now, it's regulated
through the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Avalanche-Journal phone
calls to the board were not returned, but Clark, the TDCJ spokesman, said
Wachholtz's case was reviewed before he was released.
A prosecutor with the Lubbock Criminal District Attorney's Office, Tray
Payne, said, "I don't think the board could have predicted this type of
situation. They do the best they can. This is just a sad situation."
Prisoners released under mandatory supervision must serve the remainder of
their term under the supervision of authorities.
Certain conditions of release can be imposed by the Texas parole board,
and a violation of those conditions - in severe cases - can result in the
offender's return to jail, Clark said.
One condition of all releasees: They must refrain from using drugs, Clark
Miller said the Lubbock parole office "did nothing" about Wachholtz's
repeated and flagrant drug use.
"Under the influence, certain people are capable of doing anything.
(Wachholtz) was one of those," Miller said.
Wachholtz, he said, was addicted to methamphetamine - a drug that studies
show leads to paranoid and delusional thinking and violent responses in
Less than a day prior to the 7-Eleven shooting, Wachholtz robbed and
assaulted a woman with the same gun police said he used to shoot
Pendleton, according to court documents. He told the woman he needed her
money to buy "dope," a court document reads. The woman, who feared for her
life, reported the incident after the 7-Eleven shooting.
"You give (Wachholtz) something like (meth) and it's like a firecracker,"
Wachholtz's brother, who lives in Hawaii, agrees.
"I am almost positive (Wachholtz) was on drugs (at the time of the
shooting). This is how he acts on drugs. ... We knew he was capable of
doing this (murder)," said John Wachholtz, who has not seen his brother in
"I think (authorities) should have kept a closer eye on him."
The Lubbock parole office did give Wachholtz random drug tests, but the
test results are private, Clark said.
Even if drug tests confirmed Wachholtz was using drugs, his return to
prison would not have been imminent. That's the most severe option for
releasees who are using drugs, Clark said. Less severe options include
mandatory counseling or no action at all, he said. Which option is chosen
is a decision made by an offender's parole officer and his supervisor,
"Parole officers have a very difficult job," he said. "They go to great
lengths to make sure their parolees and releasees are following all the
He added, "(Wachholtz's) parole officer did act according to policy and
did take appropriate action" in response to Wachholtz's reported drug use.
But Miller and others are skeptical of that. And deeply troubled. In
Wachholtz's case, authorities again and again were too lax, they said.
"I pray every day for (Pendleton's) family. I wish (authorities) would
have got to (Wachholtz) before he killed (Pendleton). When someone dies,
you don't get them back," Miller said.
"(Authorities) were sitting on this - watching and waiting.
"There are certain people," he said, "you shouldn't sit on."
(source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)
GEORGIA----impending execution STAYED
Parole board grants Davis 90-day stay
The state parole board Monday temporarily halted the execution of
convicted cop killer Troy Anthony Davis less than 24 hours before he was
scheduled to die by lethal injection.
The board issued a 90-day stay of execution after a 9-hour closed-door
clemency hearing in which last-minute questions of his innocence were
raised. The board did not release its vote.
The purpose of the stay is for "evaluating and analyzing the evidence
provided during the board appointment," according to a press release
issued by the parole board.
An order issued by the board granting the stay said "those representing
Troy Anthony Davis have asserted that they can and will present live
witnesses and other evidence to the members of the board to support their
contention that there remains some doubt as to his guilt."
It also states that the board "will not allow an execution to proceed in
this state unless and until its members are convinced that there is no
doubt as to the guilt of the accused."
Davis' lawyers were elated that they will now have more time to make a
case for his innocence.
"Of course we're disappointed that it wasn't full clemency, but I think
the reaction of the board shows that there was, in fact, some doubt," said
Danielle Garten, one of Davis' lawyers. "We're glad we were able to show
that and to be the messengers of what Troy's story really is."
Garten said Davis' family was already on the telephone with him sharing
"When we called the family to tell them, they were on the phone with
Troy," Garten said. "Everybody was just really joyous, and it's a
fantastic thing that Troy's not going to be executed tomorrow."
MacPhail's widow, Joan, who traveled from Texas to be at the clemency
hearing, told the Associated Press she was disappointed by the decision.
"I believe they are setting a precedent for all criminals that it is
perfectly fine to kill a cop and get away with it," she said.
Davis still faces execution unless the parole board commutes his sentence
to life in prison, with or without parole, before the stay is up. Davis'
lawyers also have appealed his case before the Georgia Supreme Court,
seeking a new trial.
7 of 9 witnesses who helped implicate Davis have recanted their testimony
while others have come forward to say it wasn't Davis who shot Savannah
Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail to death in 1989.
After the hearing, Mark Allen MacPhail Jr., MacPhail's 18-year-old son,
said the family is comfortable with "God's will. Whatever He wants."
MacPhail, a high school senior, said the family believes Davis murdered
"I believe the police did their job correctly," he told reporters after
the hearing, "and found the right man."
MacPhail said he told the parole board what it was like growing up without
"Picture every Father's Day, having no one to give anything to," he said.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) was among those who attended the hearing to
support Davis' clemency request. Lewis left before the hearing was over,
and did not comment to reporters. Davis' lawyers, Jason Ewart and Danielle
Garten, declined comment after the hearing.
Lewis' office later released a statement of his testimony that read, in
part: "I do not know Troy Anthony Davis. I do not know if he is guilty of
the charges of which he has been convicted. But I do know that nobody
should be put to death based on the evidence we now have in this case."
Lewis went on to call the situation "frustrating ... tragic ... unjust."
He also spoke of the pain of MacPhail family's quest for justice.
The congressman closed by saying "As a man of faith, I am sure I know what
God wants you to do. Do justice. Commute the sentence of Troy Anthony
One of the witnesses, Tonya Johnson, has said that she saw the real killer
run from the crime scene and stash 2 guns in an abandoned house
information she says she initially withheld from authorities.
Johnson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the parole board asked
her about the events of the shooting, and why she took so long to come
forward with her story.
"I told them I was scared [about coming forward earlier]," Johnson said.
Johnson said a change of heart caused her to come forward and address the
parole board today.
"It felt like a relief," Johnson said of her testimony before the board.
"I hope there's a good turnout."
4 other witnesses testified before the parole board, according to parole
Others in the hearing in support of Davis included Davis' mother and
representatives of Amnesty International USA a human rights group opposed
to the death penalty that has taken up Davis' cause.
A jury sentenced Davis to death shooting MacPhail to death. MacPhail,
working an off-duty job, responded to a report of a fight in a Burger King
parking lot next to the Greyhound bus station in Savannah.
Courts have declined to hear Davis' new evidence, in part because of a
federal law aimed at expediting seemingly endless death penalty appeals.
If the parole board commutes Davis' sentence, he would be only the ninth
man in Georgia to receive clemency since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed
executions to resume in 1976.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL APPLAUDS STAY OF EXECUTION FOR TROY ANTHONY DAVIS
(Atlanta) -- Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) applauded today's decision
by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant a 90-day stay
of execution to Troy Anthony Davis, who has spent 15 years on death row
for a murder that he denies committing. Davis, 38, was convicted despite
the lack of a murder weapon or physical evidence linking him to the crime.
"Let today begin a new day for truth and justice in Georgia," said Larry
Cox, executive director of AIUSA. "We call upon the Georgia Parole Board
to recognize that in the United States, one is innocent until proven
guilty -- and in the absence of such proof, there is no acceptable choice
but to grant clemency. The Board must recognize the flawed logic of
executing a man who may be innocent."
Troy Anthony Davis, who is African American, was convicted in 1991 of
murdering Mark MacPhail, a white police officer. The prosecution based its
case on the testimony of purported "witnesses," many of whom allege police
coercion. Seven of the nine non-police witnesses for the prosecution have
recanted or contradicted their testimony in sworn affidavits, and 9 people
assert that one of the two who hasn't recanted is actually responsible for
Despite this, Davis' habeas corpus petition was denied by the state court
on a technicality -- evidence of police coercion was "procedurally
defaulted," that is, not raised earlier, so the court did not take it. The
Georgia Supreme Court and 11th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals deferred
to the state court and rejected Davis' claims, and earlier this month the
U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case.
"We are deeply saddened that the MacPhail family has suffered such pain
and hope that today's decision will lead to a fair and earnest search for
justice," said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director of AIUSA's Program to
Abolish the Death Penalty. "Now that the Board has issued a stay of
execution, it is time for authorities to reopen their investigation and
seek the truth. Only in that way can society honor the memory of Mark
Amnesty International has long-standing concerns about Troy Davis's case.
In February of this year, the organization released a 35-page report,
"Where is the Justice for Me?" The case of Troy Davis, facing execution in
Georgia. In recent weeks the organization has mobilized its worldwide
membership and collected thousands of letters calling for clemency for Mr.
For more information, please visit www.amnestyusa.org/troydavis.
(source: Amnesty International USA) *************************************
Davis' Pending Execution Will Stain America
The world pleas came from far and wide for a stay of execution for accused
Savannah, Georgia cop killer Troy Anthony Davis. Davis's defenders were
vehement that if Davis dies, the state would have killed an innocent man.
There was no smoking gun proof that Davis was innocent beyond a reasonable
doubt. But there was no murder weapon, physical evidence linking the
former Police Athletic League coach to the murder, and 7 of the 9
witnesses that claimed Davis was the triggerman recanted their testimony.
In what's become an all too disturbing pattern in the dubious convictions
of men like Davis, the witnesses claimed they were scared stiff by police
coercion, harassment, and threats into finger pointing Davis as the
Davis faced two other towering problems in his fight to stay out of the
executioner's chamber, and that's that there was no more money to file
appeals and that the right to file more appeals has been sharply
restricted. In 1996, when Congress passed, and Clinton signed, legislation
that toughened the death penalty to combat terrorist acts, it reduced
appeals and made it harder to get new trials. The year before that,
Congress slashed millions in funds for post conviction public interest
legal interest groups to help inmates such as Davis file appeals.
Davis, though, is hardly the first case in which doubts have been raised
whether a possibly innocent person has been executed. Amnesty
International, Human Rights Watch, and a scattering of federal appeals
judges have repeatedly said that some possibly innocent persons have been
executed since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. A team of
university researchers have named more than two-dozen cases in which men
have been executed that may have been innocent.
In each case, there have been blatantly chilling similarities. The
Innocence Project has noted that overzealous and untruthful prosecutors
have suppressed, fabricated, and destroyed evidence, employed lying
jailhouse snitches, and untruthful witnesses. Many of the cases have been
riddled with racial bias. The condemned killer was black or Latino and
their alleged victim was white. Davis is an African-American. When defense
attorneys appeal these tainted convictions, the courts almost always
dismiss their appeals on the grounds that the prosecutor committed
"harmless errors" that didn't affect the outcome of the case.
The Texas execution of Ruben Cantu in 1993 for a murder he allegedly
committed as a teen was a classic case of how a possibly innocent man can
be executed. The case had all the slipshod legal ingredients -- a
jailhouse informant's testimony, a dubious witness, a threadbare defense,
and sloppy police investigation. It took a decade to get the truth out,
but Cantu was declared probably innocent when the surviving victim
recanted his identification and an inmate involved in the killing signed a
confession that Cantu did not commit the crime.
In Cantu's case, and the cases of the other possibly innocent condemned
men executed, state and federal appeals courts routinely rejected their
appeals. But some judges publicly and privately expressed doubts not about
the actual innocence of the men, but whether prosecutors and courts
followed proper legal procedures and the defendants got a fair trial.
Their doubts were not enough for them to overturn their convictions, or
stay their executions. In every doubtful case, prosecutors hotly denied
that any of the men executed were innocent.
Despite the questionable executions, no prosecutor, or government
official, has ever officially said that an innocent prisoner has been
executed. But some officials and judges have strongly hinted and warned
that it could happen. In 1997, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee
praised the system of legal checks and balances in place to insure that
the rights of condemned killers are fully protected but admitted that
there was no ironclad guarantee that an innocent person could not be put
In 2000, Boston federal appeals court Judge Mark L. Wolf, in a case
involving a Massachusetts man charged with multiple murders, sent a shock
wave through the federal judiciary when he flatly said that there was
strong evidence that some innocent persons may have been executed. He did
not name the names of those who he thought may been innocent, but pointed
to the dozens of men that have been freed from death row based on DNA
tests, the recanting of damning testimony by witness and jailhouse
informants, and other evidence.
The Justice Department stuck to its guns and insisted that it went
strictly by the legal book to insure the fair and consistent application
of the death penalty, and there were no slip-ups in that an innocent man
could or had been executed, at least by the feds.
Even if Davis evades execution, there are many others who were possibly
innocent that weren't so fortunate. That's a terrible stain on America's
legal books that can't be easily erased.
(source: New America Media Associate Editor Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an
author and political analyst. His new book The Latino Challenge to Black
America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics
(Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York) in English and
Spanish will be out in October)
Time has about run out for Troy Anthony Davis, despite lying witnesses.
Those responsible for his conviction are begging the courts to stop
Tuesday's scheduled execution of the 38-year-old Davis, admitting in the
waning hours of his life that they lied because they felt bullied by
police and prosecutors.
"It will be hard to live with myself after what I [have] done," Tonya
Johnson told The Associated Press. "It will be very hard." Johnson is 1 of
9 key witnesses who have recanted their testimonies since taking the stand
against Davis in 1991 in the murder of Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen
MacPhail, who is White, was shot in the parking lot of a Burger King in
Savannah. Davis was in the parking lot with another man that day but
maintains his innocence.
Supporters of Davis believe he's an innocent man, and the human right
organization Amnesty International believe he had nothing to do with
MacPhail's murder because there was no physical evidence, no murder weapon
was found, nor was there any DNA evidence to tie Davis to the murder; he
was convicted almost exclusively on testimony of witnesses.
In recent years, Johnson and others have even given sworn statements
saying they either lied or withheld information, admitting that they
falsely implicated Johnson to save their own skins.
"I couldn't hold it in anymore," Johnson says. April Hester Hutchinson,
Johnson's friend who was with her the night of the murder, said "This is
real. The death warrant has been signed. An innocent man is going to die."
Davis' supporters have created a MySpace page. On there, they ask: Why
then is Davis still on death row nearing his execution date? With all of
this eveidence why hasn't he been granted a new hearing?
His fate now lies in the hands of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles,
which will hear a last-minute plea from Davis' attorneys today.
Death-row case plagued with doubt about guilt
A Georgia man is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Tuesday for
killing a police officer in 1989, even though the case against him has
withered in recent years as most of the key witnesses at his trial have
recanted and in some cases said they lied under pressure from police.
Prosecutors discount the significance of the recantations and argue that
it is too late to present such evidence. But supporters of Troy Davis, 38,
and some legal scholars say the case illustrates the dangers wrought by
decades of Supreme Court decisions and new laws that have rendered the
courts less likely to overturn a death sentence.
(source: Record Searchlight)
Killing is always the wrong choice.
Letters to the editor
The current debate of the particulars regarding the pending execution of
Mr. Davis distracts us from the real question confronting Georgians. We
should be re-examining the basis of the death penalty. A fresh debate
opening up the idea of the death penalty to scrutiny would reveal the
death penalty as immoral because killing is always the wrong choice.
We can all agree the person who killed Mr. MacPhail made the wrong choice.
Yet, as citizens of Georgia, we are about to participate in another
equally wrong choice by putting Mr. MacPhail's convicted killer to death.
And yes, killing is our choice.
It is we the people, not the state, or the courts who have decided killing
is an option for some crimes. Admittedly, there are those in our society
who could push the plunger and kill Mr. Davis with the same impunity of
conscience that led to the killing of Mr. MacPhail. Such a terrifying lack
of compunction, the very thing we seek to eliminate, is nurtured by the
actions of the state - you and me.
However, the rude fact of the matter is that, by proxy and in our stead,
we wash our hands of the deed and require a person we employ to kill in
our names. This cowardly behavior should prey upon our consciences. But,
instead, our actions are sanitized and witnessed by proxy. Unlike the
salacious details of the crime and trial, and as if to coddle our civic
conscience, the execution reports appear as briefs well inside the paper
allowing us to easily hide from the fact that we have killed someone.
Our shame reveals the knowledge of a truth established in the study of
both history and current events. Wherever it exists, state-sanctioned
killing is an abhorrent evil. It debases every citizen.
MICHAEL J. JOHNSON
(source: Letter to the Editor, Savannah Morning News)
Death penalty sought in slaying of Oakbrook Terrace woman
DuPage prosecutors announced this afternoon that they will seek the death
penalty for Robert Rejda, 25, the Oakbrook Terrace man accused of the 2006
Christmas rape and murder of Lauren Kiefer, a former classmate and
DuPage County State's Atty. Joseph Birkett told Judge Michael Burke that
prosecutors think the death penalty would be appropriate if Rejda is
convicted because the crime was committed during the course of felonies:
aggravated criminal sexual assault, home invasion and residential
Rejda, in court in an orange jail jumpsuit and wearing ankle, waist and
wrist restraints, showed no emotion or expression as Birkett officially
declared his intentions. Rejda is being represented by the DuPage County
public defender's office.
The victim's parents, Nick and Janice Kiefer, were present, but they
declined to comment today.
Lauren Kiefer, 24, celebrated Christmas with her family at a sister's home
in Lombard, then returned home alone at 6:20 p.m. A window in the Oakbrook
Terrace home where Kiefer lived with her mother was broken, indicating
that Rejda may have broken in before Kiefer's arrival, authorities said.
Janice Kiefer returned home and discovered her daughter's battered body in
Rejda has a record of arrests and convictions dating to 1999. He has been
in custody since Jan. 1, when he was arrested on traffic and drug charges,
Birkett said. Rejda was charged Feb. 1 with the sexual assault of an
Aurora woman in her home in October, prosecutors said. His DNA matched
evidence gathered at the scene, according to law-enforcement sources.
Birkett said today that he intends to ask Burke to use evidence from the
Aurora case to bolster his request for the death penalty in the Kiefer
Kiefer was a 2005 graduate of Columbia College in Chicago and had worked
as a model in clothing ads.
Rejda had known Kiefer since childhood and the 2 attended grade school
together, but Birkett said there was no romantic link.
The trial is not expected to start for at least a year.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
Prosecutors to seek death penalty in Christmas Day slaying
Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty if a man is convicted of
killing his former classmate during a Christmas Day slaying near Oakbrook
DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett announced the
capital-punishment decision for the murder of 24-year-old Lauren Kiefer
during a brief court hearing this afternoon before Judge Michael Burke.
Bob Rejda, 25, is charged with 1st-degree murder, home invasion,
residential burglary and aggravated criminal sexual assault. Birkett
argues Rejda is eligible for the death penalty if convicted because the
murder was committed in the commission of other felony offenses.
Rejda, an electrician, did not outwardly react in court.
He grew up within a mile of Kiefer and, though they didn't keep in touch
in later years, the two attended elementary and high school together.
The slain womans mother, Janice, discovered Lauren's body in their home on
Myrtle Avenue just off Butterfield Road after returning from a family
gathering about 7:15 p.m. Dec. 25. Both of them attended the holiday
party, but left in separate cars.
Detectives suspect Lauren Kiefer walked in as her attacker was
burglarizing the home, grabbed a baseball bat, and was fatally beaten with
both ends of it after he wrestled it away from her. Prosecutors allege
Rejda sexually assaulted Lauren with the bat during the attack.
Her family supports the death penalty in the case.
Rejda was arrested Jan. 1 for driving with a revoked license. He was
released, but deputies took him back into custody Jan. 11 after they said
tests conducted on painkillers confiscated in the traffic stop came back
as a controlled substance.
Afterward, authorities said he was linked through his DNA to an Oct. 9,
2005, rape in Aurora. He is accused of attacking a 28-year-old woman in
her home on Aurora's far east side.
A DuPage County grand jury indicted him Feb. 1 on aggravated criminal
sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, home invasion, robbery and
residential burglary charges for that case. He also was indicted on
possession of a controlled substance from the traffic stop.
After Kiefer's slaying, DuPage County sheriff's detectives canvassed the
neighborhood and interviewed several dozen people. They ruled out a man
described as Kiefer's boyfriend after his alibi checked out. He also
passed a lie-detector test.
They soon focused in on Rejda, who was released from jail 2 months earlier
after serving a short stint for drunken driving and other charges.
Rejda has remained in jail on a $2 million bond for the Aurora sexual
assault case since earlier this year. But prosecutors didnt pursue the
grand jury indictment for Kiefers murder until a few months ago after they
said he was linked to the crime scene through DNA.
Rejda also telephoned Kiefers house earlier that day, prosecutors said,
citing phone records.
(source: Daily Herald)
Homicides: Towne deciding whether to pursue death penalty
State's Attorney Brian Towne said he is leaning "heavily" in one direction
regarding whether he will pursue the death penalty in the murders of two
elderly Seneca residents.
But Towne is not disclosing which way that is.
Keith Mackowiak, 39, of Seneca, was arrested Wednesday on a separate Cook
County warrant for leaving the scene of a personal injury accident and
became a suspect in the beating deaths of Aloysius, 84, and Catherine, 87,
Twardowski, whose bodies were found at their rural Seneca home early
Late Friday afternoon, Towne filed 2 1st-degree murder charges against
Mackowiak, who remains in custody at the La Salle County Jail with bail
set at $5 million.
Mackowiak, who told a judge Monday he intends to plead guilty, is eligible
for the death penalty for reasons including two or more victims were
involved and they were older than 60.
Towne also noted the murders were "particularly brutal and heinous."
Towne has 120 days from the time Mackowiak was taken into custody to
determine whether he will seek the death penalty, but Towne hinted a
decision likely will not take that long.
"I will have a decision much quicker than that," Towne told reporters
Monday at the La Salle County Sheriff's Office, following Mackowiak's
Towne also will meet with the victims' family members; their opinions will
factor into his decision. He noted Mackowiak's intentions to plead guilty
will not dictate whether the death penalty is sought.
The state's attorney's office sought the death penalty in two cases in the
1990s. Michael Watson was convicted in 1993 of kidnapping, raping and
murdering 19-year-old Caroline Jensen of Jonesville. A jury in that case
opted against the death penalty, instead sentencing Watson, then 19, to
life in prison.
Also, Ralph Syverson, a former state trooper from La Salle, was convicted
for shooting to death 38-year-old Gale Rapp of Sublette in 1994.
Prosecutors sought first-degree murder and home invasion convictions as
well as the death penalty against Syverson, now 51, but instead a jury
found Syverson guilty of 2nd-degree murder and home invasion. He was
sentenced to 25 years in prison and was paroled last year.
During court Monday, Towne alleged the Twardowski murders took place
during a residential burglary and each victim was struck in the head with
The shovel was about 4 feet long with a wooden handle.
Mackowiak was charged with 1st-degree murder as the murders occurred while
he allegedly was committing another felony of residential burglary.
Mackowiak told Circuit Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. he is not seeking
representation -- a move both Towne and Ryan advised against.
"I explained that was not a good idea, but he was persistent in his desire
to represent himself," Towne said in court.
Ryan encouraged Mackowiak to seek representation.
"I have made my decision, sir," Mackowiak told the judge, to which Ryan
replied, "I don't think that's a very good idea."
Following the court hearing, Towne said Mackowiak would be required to
have representation if Towne chooses to seek the death penalty.
If Towne does not pursue the death penalty, Mackowiak "has every right to
represent himself," Towne said.
At about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, Morris Hospital contacted the La Salle
County Sheriff's Office after someone called the hospital emergency room
and requested an ambulance to the Twardowskis' home at 2610 E. 28th Road,
just outside the Seneca city limits.
Sheriff's deputies, along with Seneca police, found the Twardowskis face
down in an upstairs den in their home.
Sheriff Tom Templeton said Monday the identity of the person who made the
call to the hospital has been verified. However, he would not provide more
details as it is part of an ongoing investigation.
Towne also noted to reporters he could not comment on any statements made
by Mackowiak, who was arrested at his home, following authorities locating
the Twardowskis' missing car at the Wildlife Trailer Park on U.S. 6, just
east of Seneca. Police received a tip about the car.
Authorities are not commenting on how police were led to Mackowiak.
Mackowiak has La Salle County convictions including battery, domestic
battery and aggravated assault to a peace officer. He also has been
convicted since the late 1980s in Cook County of armed robbery,
residential burglary (twice) and possession of marijuana. He has been
sentenced to prison at least 3 times.
Mackowiak also has charges this year from suburban Bridgeview of domestic
battery from Jan. 16 and pending Cook County charges of trespass from June
9 and June 11.
Mackowiak has no known relationship to the Twardowskis.
The case is scheduled to go before the grand jury Tuesday, Aug. 7, at
which time additional charges may be introduced.
Mackowiak, who must post $500,000 cash bond to be released, is scheduled
for a court appearance at 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 10.
(source: My Web Times)
News from New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty ---- Statement by David
Kaczynski, Exec Dir. of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty
Calls Repeated State Senate Passage of a Death Penalty Bill an "Empty
Gesture," New Yorkers Support Swift, Sure Punishment for Violent Criminals
- The Death Penalty is Neither
State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno knows that todays passage of a
death penalty bill all but identical to one passed earlier this year is a
cynical and empty gesture that has no chance of becoming law.
It is unconscionable that he has led his chamber in this cynical exercise
without addressing the plague of wrongful convictions that has seen 26 New
Yorkers exonerated and freed after serving long sentences for murders or
rapes they did not commit.
We join all New Yorkers in grieving for the recent loss of Police Officer
Timoshenko, and other officers and troopers who have died in the service
of all of us.
But Senator Bruno knows, as New Yorkers have learned, that the death
penalty does not represent swift or sure punishment. No one has been
executed in New York in 44 years.
The principal effect of the death penalty is to create a lot more work for
lawyers at the taxpayers expense without any public benefit. A mandatory
sentence of life imprisonment without parole for those who murder police
is a tough sentence fully enforceable in New York State. It protects those
who protect us without wasting untold millions of dollars on a
decades-long appeals process and without risking the execution of an
The death penalty is a system that buries its worst mistakes. Trying to
reinstate the death penalty before tackling the plague of wrongful
convictions is a cynical gesture aimed at diverting attention from other
issues before the legislature.
Senator Bruno knows the measure will not become law, no matter how many
times he gets his conference to pass it.
New Yorkers have learned we can live without the death penalty. It is time
for Senator Bruno to catch up with the people he represents.
(source: New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty)
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