As a teenager Corbett was an excellent student,
a cheerleader and the president of her class. Corbett claimed that
she had been raped three times, as a result, she began to drink
heavily and her grades dropped.
Corbett began her serial series at the age of
21. All of her victims were her children. She used a different
method of murder with each child, the first child had a fractured
skull, the second was shaken to death and the third child was
smothered. It is believed that during the time of the third murder
Corbett was mentally ill.
Corbett was arrested on August 10, 1989 for the
murder of her three year old son. She is found guilty and
sentenced to 20 years in prison on September 24, 1990. While in
prison Corbett is charged with the murders of her other two
children in April 1991. She is found guilty and sentenced to life
in prison without parole on February 10, 1993 in Illinois.
Tammy Corbett was charged with the murder of
three of her children. We currently have information on all of her
Robert, 7 weeks old, was murdered in September
1987. He died due to a skull fracture.
Amy, 16 days old, was murdered September 1988.
It was ruled that her death was caused by Sudden Infant Death
3 year old Richard was murdered in July 1989.
He was smothered to death.
A 24-year-old woman in prison for killing her 3-year-old son was
indicted Wednesday by a Macoupin County grand jury on murder
charges in the deaths of her two other children.
indictment accuses Tammy Corbett Eveans of killing her 2-month-old
son, Robert, in 1987, and her 2-week-old daughter, Amy, in 1988.
attorney, Arthur Margulis, said his client will plead innocent.
serving a 20-year sentence at the Dwight Correctional Center for
the July 1989 killing of her 3-year-old son, Richard Jr. She
pleaded guilty but mentally ill to a murder charge in that case.
have said that neither of the younger children's deaths was
considered suspicious until Richard Jr. died. The cause of Amy
Eveans' death was listed as sudden infant death syndrome. Robert
Eveans' death was attributed to spinal meningitis resulting from a
JERSEYVILLE, Ill. — A woman has been charged
with first-degree murder in the death of her 3-year-old son last
month, and the deaths of two other children in 1987 and 1988 will
be investigated, officials said Friday.
Tammy Eveans, 23, of rural Brighton was
arrested and charged Thursday after a three-week investigation by
the Illinois State Police, the Madison County coroner's office and
the Jersey County Sheriff's Department, said Jersey County Sheriff
The woman is accused of killing her son,
Richard Wesley Eveans, by placing her hand over the child's mouth
and suffocating him.
Authorities say the woman had two other
children who died in the last two years: 2-month-old Robert Wayne,
who suffered a fractured his skull on Aug. 25, 1987, after a
reported fall, and 3-week-old Amy, whose Aug. 1, 1988, death was
attributed to sudden infant death syndrome.
January 4, 1996
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE
OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
TAMMY L. EVEANS, A/K/A TAMMY L. CORBETT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
Appeal from Circuit Court of
Macoupin County. Nos. 91CF82, 91CF83. Honorable Joseph P. Koval,
As Corrected July 25, 1996. Released for
Publication January 4, 1996. Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied
April 3, 1996.
Honorable James A. Knecht, J., Honorable Robert
J. Steigmann, J., Honorable John T. McCULLOUGH, J., Concurring
The opinion of the court was delivered by:
The Honorable Justice KNECHT delivered the
opinion of the court:
After a bench trial, defendant Tammy Eveans,
a/k/a Tammy Corbett, was convicted of four counts of murder, a
violation of section 9-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) (Ill.
Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 9-1 (now 720 ILCS 5/9-1 (West
1992))). She was sentenced to two concurrent terms of natural life
imprisonment and now appeals her conviction. We affirm in part and
vacate in part.
Defendant was charged with four counts of
murder of two of her children, Robert Eveans (born July 31, 1987,
and died September 25, 1987) and Amy Cecille Eveans (born August
16, 1988, and died September 1, 1988). At the time of trial
defendant had already been convicted of murdering her oldest
child, Ricky, whose death prompted authorities to reexamine the
earlier deaths and charge defendant with murder. Defendant pleaded
not guilty to two counts alleging she intentionally or knowingly
caused their deaths and two counts alleging she engaged in conduct
knowing it created a strong probability of their deaths.
Prior to the bench trial, defendant moved to
suppress statements she made to Jersey County Sheriff Frank Yocom.
At the suppression hearing, Sheriff Yocom testified he was called
to the jail because defendant was crying and requested to see him.
On arrival, he advised her who her attorney was and she should
talk to him. She replied she knew her rights and wanted to talk to
Sheriff Yocom. He again told her she should be aware of her
constitutional rights and she should talk to her attorney. She
replied she had not been honest with the sheriff and Lieutenant
Wayne Watson of the Illinois State Police, and wanted to get some
"things off her chest" about Robert and Amy. She wanted a meeting
the next morning with her attorney, Sheriff Yocom, and Lieutenant
Watson. She said she had not been perfectly honest with her
attorney, and wanted to "get all of this out in the open." Sheriff
Yocom asked no questions. She made these statements on her own.
The meeting never transpired. No other evidence was presented. The
trial court denied the motion to suppress, finding defendant's
statements were voluntary and self-initiated.
Defendant, asserting the marital privilege,
also moved to suppress testimony from her former husband
concerning admissions to him she killed their two children. The
trial court denied the motion. At the bench trial, the following
testimony and evidence were adduced.
Richard Eveans (Richard) was the former husband
of defendant. Together they had three children, Ricky, Robert, and
Amy Cecille, in order. While he was away on a trip, defendant
called and told him she was in the basement doing laundry and
Robert had either fallen or their son Ricky had pulled Robert off
a table. A few days later, Richard returned home when Robert was
admitted to the hospital because he had stopped breathing. Robert
was hooked to a monitor and appeared to be breathing normally.
Robert never had any trouble breathing before or after he was
admitted to the hospital. Richard took off work for a few days to
console defendant. The first day he went back to work, Robert died
in the hospital.
At different times during their marriage,
defendant gave three different versions of being raped when she
was younger. First, she claimed before they were married, she had
been raped by her boyfriend. Later she claimed she had been
grabbed as she was getting into her car, dragged to an apartment,
and raped by a man who looked vaguely familiar. Later her story
was the same as the second version, except this time the rapist
was a black man.
Their daughter Amy did not exhibit any medical
problems prior to her death. On the morning she died, Richard and
defendant were asleep when the alarm clock went off. Defendant
jumped out of bed, ran into the baby's room "like she knew
something was wrong," and yelled something was wrong with Amy.
Richard went into the room and saw Amy was cold and stiff. After
Amy's death, and while consoling defendant, he asked her why she
jumped out of bed that morning. She replied she dreamed Amy's name
was in place of Robert's name on his headstone in the cemetery, so
when she awoke she ran to see if Amy was all right.
In April 1990, Richard visited defendant in the
county jail. She admitted placing her hand over Robert's mouth and
suffocating him, and placing her hand over Amy's mouth and
suffocating her. Defendant said she laughed when she did this and
could not understand why Richard had not awakened when she was
Richard never saw defendant act as other than a
loving mother with their children and his stepdaughter, who
occasionally stayed with him and defendant. He noted on numerous
occasions defendant thrashed around in bed with violent nightmares
and he was unable to wake her.
William Davis met defendant while a fellow
inmate in the Jersey County jail. She told him she placed a pillow
over the face of her "other child" (apparently Robert) and killed
the child. Defendant told him at least a dozen times what she had
done, and said, "there was no witnesses, so she couldn't go to
jail." She also told him she had been raped when she was younger
by a group of black men in an abandoned building.
Charles Enneian met defendant while a fellow
inmate at the Jersey County jail. In a telephone conversation with
her in the summer of 1990, she told him "when Amy and Robbie died,
they both kicked their legs real hard like a little baby would
kick their legs trying to swim in the water." Defendant also
recounted a rape when she was younger by a white man who dragged
her from her car to an apartment.
Debra Sinks also met defendant while in jail.
In addition to two versions of the rape from her past, defendant
told her she had contacted Sheriff Yocom because she wanted to
confess and tell the truth about the deaths of her children.
Sheriff Yocom then repeated his testimony from the suppression
Lynn Chism, an acquaintance of defendant, had a
phone conversation with defendant in November 1989, while
defendant was being held in jail. Chism told defendant she had "no
doubt" defendant had killed Robert and Amy. Defendant started
crying and said, "It was my hands. It wasn't me, it was my hands."
However, when Chism yelled at defendant, "You killed Robbie,"
defendant answered, "No, Ricky." Defendant then said she "had
nothing to do with killing Amy."
Dr. William Drake, a coroner's physician for
Jersey County, performed an autopsy on Amy. She died from
cardiorespiratory arrest due to anoxia (a lack of breathing). He
considered this to be sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) (a/k/a
crib death) and had no evidence of "foul play" at the time. SIDS
is "a failure to breathe for unknown reasons." Autopsy findings
for SIDS and death by suffocation are indistinguishable in a tiny
Brandie Eveans, 12 years old, is Richard's
daughter and the stepdaughter of defendant. She lived with
defendant for a time. She once saw defendant put her hand over
Robert's mouth. He started shaking and kicking his legs. Brandie
also saw defendant place her hand over Amy's mouth and Amy started
kicking her legs. Brandie ran to her bedroom and hid because she
was afraid defendant was "going to get her." Defendant also told
Brandie yet another version of the rape incident. On the day Ricky
died, Brandie heard defendant say to Ricky in a "loud" and "mean"
voice something like, "you are going to die."
Gina Eveans was married to Richard's brother
and was a friend of defendant. Defendant told Gina she had been in
the basement doing laundry when Ricky pulled the tablecloth off
the kitchen table, which pulled Robert down off the table. Ricky
was 13 months old at the time and could not yet walk. When Gina
went to defendant's house to get clothes for defendant and Ricky,
there was no tablecloth or blood on the floor. The second time
Robert was taken to the hospital, Gina saw defendant lean over
Robert and say, "Don't worry, baby, I got even." Gina also noted
defendant had told her on numerous occasions she was going to get
even with her husband, Richard, for being away from home so much.
Raj Nanduri, a forensic pathologist, performed
an autopsy on Robert in September 1987 and determined the cause of
death was meningitis. She later performed an autopsy on Ricky and
was aware Amy had died of SIDS. Nanduri suggested the
reinvestigation of the two earlier deaths. Meningitis is not
always fatal, and the findings of Robert's autopsy were not
inconsistent with death by suffocation. Suffocation in a small
child usually leaves no traces, so almost every death of a small
child is not inconsistent with suffocation.
Mary Case, a pathologist, reviewed the records
of Robert and Amy. She believed Robert had only localized brain
inflammation, not meningitis, and his cause of death was
undetermined. A child his age, 7 1/2 weeks, rarely shows signs of
suffocation. SIDS is commonly accepted to occur only after the
baby is at least one month old. Amy was 16 days old at death. A
diagnosis of SIDS requires an investigation of family history. Her
office prohibits the diagnosis of SIDS in a family where another
child has already died of SIDS. Another child's death in the
family is a suspicious detail preventing a clear diagnosis of
SIDS. She explained in forensic pathology, because children often
die in ways undetectable by a medical autopsy, the cause of death
can be determined only through investigation of circumstances
surrounding the death. Given all the circumstances surrounding
Robert's and Amy's deaths, she would rule the cause of their
During the defense case, the defense called
numerous witnesses including members of defendant's family, as
well as former high school friends, teachers, and coworkers of
defendant. Their testimony can be summarized as follows. Defendant
underwent a marked personality change in high school. In her
freshman year, she was outgoing, involved in student activities, a
straight "A" student, and president of the student council. By her
junior year, she had become introverted and depressed, withdrew
from student activities, and began to drink. Her grades slipped,
and she did not graduate with her class. In high school, she had
an abortion, received a head injury in an accident at the Young
Men's Christian Association pool, and was involved in a car
accident. After the accidents, she had headaches and blackouts,
violent nightmares from which she could not be awakened, and
unprovoked hysterical screaming fits, after which she also blacked
out and could not remember what happened. In regard to parental
affection and skills, she seemed a wonderful, loving mother.
Katherine Sears, defendant's mother, testified
defendant claimed she was doing laundry in the basement when Ricky
pulled Robert down from the kitchen table. However, Mary Corbett,
defendant's sister, testified after Robert died, defendant said
she was doing dishes in the kitchen when he fell. After Ricky's
death, defendant said she was taking a nap with Ricky when she had
a nightmare she was being raped. In trying to defend herself in
her sleep, her body smothered Ricky.
Dr. Daniel J. Cuneo, a clinical psychologist
with the Illinois Department of Mental Health and Developmental
Disabilities, evaluated defendant. She told him she believed she
killed her children because she had dreams and flashbacks of doing
so. Dr. Cuneo believed defendant's pool and auto accidents caused
brain damage, which amplified her negative personality traits
caused by rape trauma. A substantial disorder of thought, mood,
and behavior impaired her judgment. Defendant could appreciate the
criminality of her conduct and was legally sane at the time of the
alleged offenses. On cross-examination, Dr. Cuneo testified a
medical report by Dr. Farid Karimi, upon which Dr. Cuneo had
relied in part in forming his opinions, indicated defendant did
not have brain damage. On redirect, Dr. Cuneo noted Dr. Karimi had
not only agreed defendant was mentally ill, but believed she was
legally insane. Later, the State moved to limit Dr. Karimi's
opinion regarding defendant's sanity be admissible only to show
the basis of Dr. Cuneo's opinion. Over objection, the trial court
granted the motion.
The State offered some rebuttal witnesses out
of order, including Virginia Budde, a former coworker of
defendant. When defendant was pregnant, she said she did not want
the baby, and "this was going to be the last one, anyway; that she
didn't have to worry about it." She stated "something along the
line that if she was lucky, something about the baby she was
carrying wouldn't be born, would be born with something wrong."
Defendant objected because Budde's testimony was not rebuttal. The
trial court overruled the objection.
The defense rested. The trial court ruled no
evidence of insanity or provocation had been presented and then
found defendant guilty but mentally ill on all four counts of
murder. Defendant now appeals, raising numerous arguments for
Defendant first argues the trial court erred in
admitting the statements she made to her husband. A spouse may not
testify against another spouse as to any conversation between them
during marriage unless, among other things, "the interests of
their child or children or of any child or children in either
spouse's care, custody or control are directly involved." (725
ILCS 125/6 (West 1992).) Defendant argues the trial court
improperly admitted her statements to her husband because, since
Robert and Amy were dead, no interest of theirs was involved in
this case. Defendant cites People v. Bartell (1944),
386 Ill. 483,
54 N.E.2d 700, and People v. Burton
102 Ill. App. 3d 148, 429 N.E.2d
57 Ill. Dec. 645, as support.
In Bartell, the Supreme Court of Illinois,
without discussion, concluded the statutory marital privilege
prevented a wife from testifying against her husband concerning
statements he made regarding the paternity of their child, with
whose murder he was charged. In Burton, the appellate court
declared the statutory marital privilege did not apply where one
spouse was charged with aggravated incest against a stepchild.
Burton declined to follow Bartell, noting Bartell did not
specifically address the question whether trial for the murder of
a child is a case in which that child's interests are directly
involved. Burton also noted its decision was not inconsistent with
Bartell, because the child victim in Bartell was dead, and "any
interest she had in seeing defendant tried for a crime died with
her." Burton, 102 Ill. App. 3d at 152, 429 N.E.2d at 546.
Defendant's reliance on these cases is
misplaced. The quoted language from Burton was dicta, and Bartell
is over 50 years old and did not specifically address whether the
child's interests were involved. The legislature has since
broadened the scope of the child interest exception to include the
interests not only of the children of the testifying and accused
spouses, but also the interests of any children in their care,
custody or control. When a child is murdered by a parent the State
stands in its place to serve several continuing interests directly
involved in a criminal prosecution of that parent for murder: the
interest in seeing the murderer brought to justice, the interest
in protecting other children from violent acts of physical abuse
committed by the same defendant, and the interest in deterring
similar behavior in other potentially abusive parents. To hold
otherwise would create an anomalous result under the marital
privilege statute, whereby a spouse could testify when the other
spouse admitted to attempting to murder their child, but not when
the other spouse admitted to succeeding in murdering their child.
The purpose of the marital privilege to
preserve marital harmony is not served by applying it here. When a
spouse admits to the other spouse the killing of their child,
there is no marital harmony left to preserve. There is no
legislative history to guide us in construing the child interest
exception, but privileges are strictly construed because they
interfere with the truth-seeking process. (In re Marriage of
Daniels (1992), 240 Ill. App. 3d 314, 607 N.E.2d 1255,
180 Ill. Dec. 742.) A logical corollary is any exception to a
privilege should be broadly construed. The State has a compelling
interest in child welfare ( In re P.F. (1994), 265 Ill. App. 3d
1092, 1103, 638 N.E.2d 716, 724, 202 Ill. Dec. 848), so
the child interest exception should be construed broadly to afford
the greatest protection to children rather than to the abusive or
We also read the child interest exception as
applying when either spouse has the care, custody, or control of
any child not only at the time of trial, but also at the time of
the offense. Otherwise, the same anomalous result would occur. A
spouse could testify when the other spouse admitted to attempting
to murder their child, because the child would presumably still be
in the care, custody, or control of the innocent spouse. However,
the innocent spouse could not testify when the other spouse
admitted to succeeding in murdering their child, under the theory
a dead child is no longer in anyone's care, custody, or control.
We interpret the child interest exception to avoid such an absurd
result by considering the paramount concern of the child interest
exception: the welfare of the children. This interpretation
comports with the logic and purpose behind the marital privilege
statute. Once a spouse has committed an abusive act against a
child, the damage to marital harmony has already been done. It
makes no sense to reassert the marital privilege simply because
custody over an abused child no longer resides in either parent at
the time of trial. The trial court did not err by allowing the
testimony of defendant's former husband.
Defendant next argues the trial court erred in
admitting defendant's statements to Sheriff Yocom. Under the
fourth amendment, once a defendant is in custody and asserts the
right to counsel, the police are prohibited from engaging in words
or actions "the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit
an incriminating response from the suspect." ( Rhode Island v.
Innis (1979), 446 U.S. 291, 301, 64 L. Ed. 2d 297, 308,
100 S. Ct. 1682, 1689-90.) However,
volunteered statements are not prohibited by the fourth amendment
and are admissible. ( People v. Jackson (1992), 233 Ill. App.
3d 1089, 1099, 599 N.E.2d 1192, 1200, 175 Ill. Dec.
178, citing Miranda v. Arizona (1966), 384 U.S. 436,
478, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 726, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 1630.) Under
the sixth amendment, after the initiation of court proceedings
against a defendant and an assertion of the right to counsel, the
police are prohibited from interrogating that defendant, but
self-initiated statements are admissible. ( People v. Pollard
149 Ill. App. 3d 434, 443-44, 500
N.E.2d 971, 977,
102 Ill. Dec. 870, citing Oregon v.
Bradshaw (1983), 462 U.S. 1039, 1044-45, 77 L. Ed. 2d 405,
103 S. Ct. 2830, 2834.) A reviewing
court will not disturb a trial court's determination on a motion
to suppress evidence unless it is against the manifest weight of
evidence. People v. Bernasco (1990), 138 Ill. 2d 349, 368,
562 N.E.2d 958, 966, 150 Ill. Dec. 155.
Defendant argues her statements to Sheriff
Yocom are inadmissible because he initiated the conversation with
her without readmonishing her of her rights before questioning
her, citing People v. Olivera (1995), 164 Ill. 2d 382,
647 N.E.2d 926, 207 Ill. Dec. 433. The uncontroverted evidence
shows her statements were not made in response to any question or
comments. Defendant initiated and perpetuated the conversation and
showed a willingness to talk about the deaths of her children even
in the face of repeated admonishments by Sheriff Yocom that she
had an attorney and should speak to him and should not talk to the
sheriff. Simply put, defendant initiated the contact, was not
interrogated, was fully aware of her rights, and insisted on
talking about her getting some things of her chest. The concerns
present in Olivera as to a police failure to readmonish a
defendant before making comments likely to elicit incriminating
remarks are simply not present here. Olivera does not assist
defendant, and her statements were properly admitted.
Defendant then asserts her statements should be
suppressed because her mental illness rendered her statements
involuntary. At the suppression hearing, defendant made no such
claim and offered no such evidence. Even if defendant was mentally
ill at the time of her statements, we will not exclude evidence if
its suppression would not serve the purpose of the exclusionary
rule in deterring police misconduct. ( People v. Turnage (1994),
162 Ill. 2d 299, 307, 642 N.E.2d 1235, 1239, 205
Ill. Dec. 118.) That purpose would not be served here, because
there is no evidence of misconduct on the part of Sheriff Yocom.
The trial court's ruling admitting defendant's statements to
Sheriff Yocom was not against the manifest weight of evidence.
Defendant next argues the trial court erred by
limiting the relevancy of Dr. Karimi's opinion defendant was
insane. Defendant asserts the State, during cross-examination of
Dr. Cuneo, gave Dr. Karimi's report the weight of substantive
evidence and somehow opened the door for the defense to admit Dr.
Karimi's insanity conclusion as substantive evidence. This
argument is without merit. The contents of reports relied upon by
experts are inadmissible as hearsay if offered for the truth of
the matter asserted, but are admissible for the limited purpose of
explaining the basis for the expert's opinion. ( People v. Pasch
(1992), 152 Ill. 2d 133, 176, 604 N.E.2d 294, 311,
178 Ill. Dec. 38.) If an expert admits relying upon a report, that
party may be impeached with the contents of that report. ( Pasch,
152 Ill. 2d at 178, 604 N.E.2d at 312.) Here, during
cross-examination, the State permissibly explored the bases for
Dr. Cuneo's opinions, and then impeached those opinions by noting
Dr. Cuneo's conclusions conflicted with Dr. Karimi's conclusions.
On redirect, the defense permissibly rehabilitated Dr. Cuneo's
credibility by noting other of Dr. Karimi's conclusions agreed
with Dr. Cuneo's conclusions. Dr. Karimi's report was not
substantive evidence. His report could be used only to show the
basis for Dr. Cuneo's opinions.
Defendant next asserts the trial
court erred in failing to consider evidence supporting a finding
of second degree murder. Sections 9-2(a)(1) and (a)(2) of the Code
state a person commits second degree murder when:
"(1) At the time of the killing he is acting
under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious
provocation by the individual killed or another whom the offender
endeavors to kill, but he negligently or accidentally causes the
death of the individual killed; or
(2) At the time of the killing he believes the
circumstances to be such that, if they existed, would justify or
exonerate the killing under the principles stated in Article 7 of
this Code, but his belief is unreasonable." (720 ILCS 5/9-2(a)(1),
(a)(2) (West 1992).)
Self-defense is a justifying or exonerating
circumstance. (720 ILCS 5/7-1 (West 1992).) Also, section 9-2(b)
of the Code declares "serious provocation is conduct sufficient to
excite an intense passion in a reasonable person." (720 ILCS
5/9-2(b) (West 1992).) The only categories of serious provocation
which have been recognized are substantial physical injury or
assault, mutual quarrel or combat, illegal arrest, and adultery
with the offender's spouse. ( People v. Chevalier (1989),
131 Ill. 2d 66, 71,
544 N.E.2d 942, 944, 136 Ill. Dec.
167.) Defendant argues at the time of both Amy's and Robert's
deaths, their crying constituted provocation which triggered the
unreasonable belief she was being raped, and she killed her
children in a delusional attempt at self-defense. Defendant's
argument is without merit. A crying baby is not provocation to
murder and there was no evidence at trial that at the time of
Amy's and Robert's deaths she had the belief she was being raped.
It was only during Ricky's death she has claimed to have had such
a belief. The trial court did not err in failing to consider
evidence supporting second degree murder, because there was no
Defendant next argues the trial court erred by
allowing Virginia Budde to be called by the State as a rebuttal
witness. Evidence offered in rebuttal is admissible if it tends to
explain or disprove the testimony of the accused. The decision to
admit rebuttal testimony will not be reversed absent an abuse of
discretion by the trial court. ( People v. Buehler (1994),
261 Ill. App. 3d 539, 543, 636
N.E.2d 769, 772, 201 Ill. Dec. 337.) An abuse of discretion
occurs where the rebuttal testimony contradicts testimony on a
collateral issue, i.e., if it has no relevance to a matter of
consequence in the action as defined by the pleadings. ( People ex
rel. Mendez v. Villa (1994), 260 Ill. App. 3d 866, 870,
632 N.E.2d 322, 325, 198 Ill. Dec. 263.) Defendant asserts
Budde's testimony was collateral. Defendant is wrong. Several
defense witnesses testified defendant was a wonderful, loving
mother, implying she had no motive to kill her children. Budde's
testimony rebutted this testimony, indicating defendant was not
necessarily so loving, and possibly did have a motive for killing
her children. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in
allowing Budde's testimony.
Defendant also asserts she was prejudiced
because the State did not disclose Budde as a witness. This
argument is without merit. The State need not inform the defense
of its intention to call a rebuttal witness until that intention
is formed. ( People v. Weber (1994),
264 Ill. App. 3d 310, 315-16, 636
N.E.2d 902, 906, 201 Ill. Dec. 470.) Budde had first been
contacted by the police the night before her testimony. The State
had not formed the intention to call her as a witness until that
time and could not have given the defense any more notice.
Defendant next contends she was not proved
guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. When presented with a challenge
to the sufficiency of the evidence, a reviewing court will sustain
a criminal conviction if "'after viewing the evidence in the light
most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact
could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a
reasonable doubt.'" ( People v. Collins (1985), 106 Ill. 2d 237,
261, 478 N.E.2d 267, 277,
87 Ill. Dec. 910, quoting Jackson v.
Virginia (1979), 443 U.S. 307, 319, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560, 573,
99 S. Ct. 2781, 2789.) Defendant
argues causation, one of the elements of murder, was not proved
because no medical evidence in Robert's and Amy's bodies
specifically indicated "foul play." Defendant's argument is
"The corpus delecti of an offense has been
defined as the occurrence of the injury or loss and its causation
by criminal conduct. *** The prosecution must present evidence
apart from the defendant's own statements that tends to show the
commission of the offense and that corroborates the facts related
in the statement. ***
'If the independent evidence tends to prove
that an offense occurred, then such evidence, if corroborative of
the facts contained in the confession, may be considered along
with the confession in establishing the corpus delecti. In such
event, the independent evidence need not establish beyond a
reasonable doubt that an offense did occur.'" (Emphasis in
original.) ( People v. Howard (1991), 147 Ill. 2d 103,
126-27, 588 N.E.2d 1044, 1052-53, 167 Ill. Dec. 914,
quoting People v. Willingham (1982), 89 Ill. 2d 352, 361,
432 N.E.2d 861, 865, 59 Ill. Dec. 917.)
Defendant admitted she killed her children to
several people on different occasions. The medical evidence alone
did not prove suffocation beyond a reasonable doubt, but it
corroborated defendant's statements and tended to show the
commission of the offenses. Robert's and Amy's deaths were
consistent with suffocation, and Dr. Case testified her office
refuses to classify more than one infant death per family as SIDS
because a previous SIDS child death in the family is suspicious.
Here, not just two but three of defendant's children had died. The
evidence was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to find
defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the murders.
Defendant finally argues the trial court
improperly found her guilty of four counts of murder instead of
two. The State concedes a defendant may not be convicted for more
than one offense arising out of the same physical act. ( People v.
King (1977), 66 Ill. 2d 551, 566, 363 N.E.2d 838,
844, 6 Ill. Dec. 891.) The defendant should have been convicted
only on the two counts of intentional or knowing murder. The
convictions for murder based on knowledge of a strong probability
of her children's deaths are vacated.
The trial court's judgment is affirmed in all
Affirmed in part; vacated in part.
STEIGMANN and McCULLOUGH, JJ., concur.