A critical care surgeon testified in Kane County Court Wednesday that Richard Gibbons' liver and other organs began to deteriorate after a surgery Aug. 12, 2011, to stop internal bleeding after he was hit by a thrown fire extinguisher.
Gibbons, a 61-year-old homeless man, died a few weeks later and Yancarlo Garcia, 24, of Chicago, is charged with first degree murder for tossing the extinguisher off the fifth floor of a downtown Elgin parking deck.
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Prosecutors argue that Garcia, his brother and two girls got drunk and high on marijuana and began antagonizing Gibbons, who was trying to sleep in an alley in downtown Elgin.
Prosecutors argue that Garcia, of the 1100 block of Lawndale Avenue, knowingly took a 15-pound fire extinguisher on Aug. 11, 2011, and launched it 62 feet down at Gibbons, hitting him on the left side of his pelvis.
Dr. Sanja Nikolich, a critical care surgeon, helped treat Gibbons after he was transported from Provena St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.
Nikolich said her initial exam of Gibbons didn't show any signs of needing an operation, but his condition worsened and she decided to operate to fix internal bleeding after a second CT scan.
Gibbons, an alcoholic who had hepatitis C and cirrhosis, was still in the intensive care unit on Aug. 18 -- six days after the surgery -- and suffering from alcohol withdrawal when Nikolich saw him again.
"He was sick," the doctor recalled. "He had definite signs of trouble with the liver. I do believe he had fevers at this point and possibly pneumonia."
Nikolich could not pinpoint the exact cause of Gibbons decline that lead to his death on Sept. 4, 2011.
"He had multiple issues going on," she said. "As to the actual cause of all these things happening. he had an injury, he had blood loss, he had an operation. It kind of snowballs; as one organ system fails, so does the next one."
Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress has argued that Garcia was not aiming at Gibbons. She contends Garcia only tossed the fire extinguisher from the parking deck so it could hit the ground in the alley and wake Gibbons up.
Childress on Wednesday suggested the Nikolich failed to properly diagnose Gibbons and that he had pre-existing conditions that caused his death -- not the injury from the fire extinguisher.
The jury is expected to get the case late this week. If convicted, Garcia faces between 20 and 60 years in prison.