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Past may have lead to death, lawyer says

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May 15, 2008

A Zion man accused of murdering his 4-month-old daughter had "a nightmarish existence" growing up that may provide a foundation for an insanity defense, his lawyer said Wednesday.

The lawyer's comments came after Larnell Mace, 19, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges that could see him sentenced to life in prison.

Mace is accused of repeatedly punching Jasmine Mace in the abdomen April 16 because she would not stop crying.

Waukegan attorney Jed Stone said Mace, who is a ward of the state Department of Children and Family Services, was physically and sexually abused as he moved through a series of foster homes.

Mace's DCFS guardian is compiling records that Stone said he believes will lead him to argue Mace could not comprehend the wrongfulness of his actions.

"He had the upbringing from hell and is probably the poster child for the defects of foster care," Stone said. "His tortured past led him, perhaps, to this current tragedy."

Police said Mace was babysitting for his daughter while her mother was at work.

A Zion police officer stopped Mace's car for speeding around 5 p.m. Mace explained he was trying to get his daughter to a hospital.

The officer drove both to a hospital. Jasmine was pronounced dead a short time later.

Mace at first denied he had done anything to the girl, but police said he eventually confessed he punched the infant five or six times because she would not stop crying.

Lake County assistant state's attorneys Steve Derue and James Newman said Mace is eligible for a maximum penalty of life in prison because he is charged with murdering a person under 12 years old.

Circuit Judge John Phillips scheduled a trial for Aug. 11 and ordered Mace, who is being held on $2 million bond, to appear in court June 19.

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