New defense attorneys for D'Andre Howard, charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of three members of a Hoffman Estates family, have a lot of work to do. And not a lot of time to do it.
During a hearing Friday before Cook County Judge Ellen Mandletort, Cook County Assistant Public Defender Deana Binstock -- appointed in January to represent Howard -- informed the court that she had received, just one day earlier, 69 boxes of evidence from Howard's previous attorneys and requested time to read through the voluminous material.
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Mandletort granted Binstock's request, noting for the record that Howard's longtime attorney and former Cook County Assistant Public Defender Jim Mullenix retired in December and Mullenix's co-counsel, Cook County Assistant Public Defender Julie Koehler, had only recently returned from maternity leave.
Noting that the case has been extensively litigated already and that "Mr. Howard has been patiently awaiting trial," Mandletort set Sept. 11 for the filing of pretrial motions.
Police charged Howard, 24, with the April 2009 stabbing deaths of 18-year-old Conant High School senior Laura Engelhardt; her father Alan Engelhardt, 57; and her maternal grandmother Marlene Gacek, 73, at the family's home. Police also charged Howard with the attempted murder of Shelly Engelhardt, Laura's mother and Alan's wife, who was seriously injured during the attack.
Howard was living with his girlfriend Amanda Engelhardt, the mother of his second child. Amanda is Alan and Shelly Engelhardt's oldest daughter. She was not injured in the attacks. Alan and Shelly's son Jeff Engelhardt was away at college at the time.
Prosecutors say Howard stabbed the victims following an argument with Amanda Engelhardt. Howard claimed in a videotaped interrogation with police that he stabbed Laura Engelhardt in self-defense after the two engaged in horseplay with a knife.
If convicted of two or more counts of first-degree murder, Howard could face a life sentence.