A DuPage County jury on Monday heard a pimp recall his final telephone conversation with a 21-year-old escort before she was stabbed to death, allegedly at the hands of a sex-crazed Addison man who had just killed his mother.
Gordon Trowers testified victim Kristi Hoenig was speaking over a cellphone in a low whisper when she suddenly cried out, "What's that in your hand?" followed by "Oh, my God!" several times. Then, the line went dead.
"It sounded like she was scared … like she was shocked or something," Trowers, 50, said in a video deposition played for the jury. "I knew something was wrong -- I didn't know exactly what, but I knew something was wrong."
About 6:30 that morning, Feb. 26, 2006, Trowers testified, defendant Gary Schuning, then 23, called his company, Erotic Elegance Escorts, requesting a sexual encounter that also would involve another woman, purportedly already with Schuning. Trowers said he agreed to send Hoenig from Chicago to Schuning's home on the 300 block of South Yale Street for two hours in exchange for $1,220, which Schuning charged to his mother's Visa.
Sometime after she arrived, Trowers testified, Hoenig called him but seemed like she was trying to be quiet. "She was speaking low, like a whisper," he said.
Seconds later, Trowers said, Hoenig cried out. "It was a loud, hysterical type of 'Oh, my God!" he said.
After the line went dead, Trowers said he called 911 and told a dispatcher his girlfriend was in Addison and possibly in danger.
Police arrived at Schuning's house minutes later to find his mother, 40-year-old Doris Pagliaro, and Hoenig both dead of multiple stab wounds in separate rooms, and Schuning in a bed with a knife in his hand and stab wounds to his chest and abdomen.
Defense attorney Neil Levine, who has suggested his client nearly became the third victim of a group of killers that police failed to catch, pressed Trowers in the deposition for missing details in the pimp's story. But Trowers was unable to explain how Hoenig made it to Schuning's after being dropped off at a wrong address, or recall what she and he talked about during several other calls around the same time.
Schuning is accused of killing Hoenig after stabbing his mother to death during an argument and hiding her body under a blanket. A police sergeant testified Monday that Schuning called 18 escort services afterward, although prosecutors say only two call girls came and went before Hoenig arrived.
A native of Jamaica, Trowers gave his deposition in February in a North Carolina federal prison, where he was serving time for illegal re-entry into the United States. He also has been convicted of pandering in connection with Hoenig's death, and has prior convictions for pandering, bribery and armed violence, among other offenses.
Schuning's trial in Judge John Kinsella's courtroom in Wheaton is expected to last through next week. It resumes Tuesday.