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updated: 12/7/2011 6:01 PM

Defendant in Lindenhurst murder says police threatened him

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  • Ealy_James_mg1206 This is murder suspect James Ealy. Photo supplied by the Lake County Sheriff.

    Ealy_James_mg1206 This is murder suspect James Ealy. Photo supplied by the Lake County Sheriff.


James Ealy testified Wednesday that police threatened him and repeatedly refused to allow him to talk to a lawyer in the days leading up to Ealy being charged with killing a restaurant manager.

Ealy, 47, is charged with first-degree murder in the Nov. 27, 2006 slaying of Mary Hutchison at the former Burger King restaurant in Lindenhurst.

Ealy's attorneys are seeking to bar any statements their client made to police in the days following the murder from being used against him at trial.

During earlier sessions of the proceeding before Lake County Circuit Judge Fred Foreman, detectives testified Ealy made statements to them -- not prompted by their questions -- in which Ealy appears to be admitting to the crime.

But on Wednesday, Ealy testified he was questioned at least three times by police who did not read him his rights. That started on the night of the murder, before an officer is shown on videotape reading Ealy his rights on Dec. 1, 2006, he said.

Ealy also testified one officer told him he would give him "an elbow shot" if he asked a second time to speak to a lawyer, and a second said he would beat Ealy "for five hours" if he did so.

Detectives from the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force spoke with Ealy in his Lake Villa apartment about 12 hours after Hutchison's body was discovered.

The detectives testified Ealy was on their list of people to talk with because he had worked at the restaurant for about a year and a half before quitting a little more than a month before the killing.

After some preliminary discussion in Ealy's apartment, police said Ealy voluntarily agreed to go to the Lindenhurst police station to answer questions.

According to Ealy's testimony Wednesday, he initially refused to leave his apartment, and agreed to go with the officers only after Waukegan Detective Dominic Cappelluti said he would arrest Ealy if he did not.

Ealy said he was questioned for a little more than an hour without being informed of his rights, then allowed to leave only when he agreed to return the next day.

He said he returned to his apartment and discovered that it and his car had been searched by police who did not have a warrant or his permission to do so.

Those actions prompted him to return to the Lindenhurst station the following day only to drop off the name of a lawyer he wanted police to contact, Ealy said.

He agreed to provide police with a set of his fingerprints, Ealy said, but only after police threatened to arrest him for a small amount of marijuana they had found in his apartment the night before.

On Dec. 1, task force detectives stopped Ealy's car as he drove away from a Gurnee restaurant where he worked.

Police have testified Ealy again agreed to come with them voluntarily. Ealy testified Vernon Hills detective Andrew Jones told him he was under arrest for murder and had no choice.

Ealy said he asked Jones if he could call a lawyer while police were driving him to the Round Lake Park police station.

"Jones said if I asked him that again he would give me an elbow shot so hard I would never ask him that again," Ealy said.

Again he was questioned by police without being informed of his rights, Ealy said. When he asked Cappelluti for a lawyer, Cappelluti said he would beat Ealy "for five hours" if he raised the subject again, Ealy testified.

Ealy also denied he told police he deserved anything that happened to him "because of the evil inside me," as officers testified at earlier sessions.

He also said he did not tell Waukegan detective Charles Schletz that he wanted to apologize to Hutchison's husband for what he had done.

Both statements were made before police asked Ealy any questions about his involvement in the slaying, officers have testified.

On the only videotape of interaction between Ealy and police, taken at the Lake County sheriff's headquarters during the evening of Dec. 1, Schletz and Cappelluti are shown reading Ealy his rights.

Ealy responds that he wants to talk to a lawyer, and the detectives are shown leaving the room.

The hearing is scheduled to resume later this month.

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