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updated: 4/22/2014 5:24 PM

Testimony begins in second trial of 1994 murder of Waukegan appliance store owner

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  • Hezekiah Whitfield

      Hezekiah Whitfield

 
 

A Lake County prosecutor told a jury Tuesday that Fred Reckling was closing his Waukegan appliance store for the night when Hezekieh Whitfield wrapped a gun in a cloth and beat the 71-year-old Libertyville man to death before taking victim's car to Chicago.

However, the defense attorney representing Whitfield, now 44, of Chicago, said there are other suspects with more motive who could have killed the Grand Appliance Store owner in 1994.

Attorney Gillian Gosch said another man -- James Edwards -- confessed to and was found guilty of killing Reckling.

"This case is not simply about DNA," Gosch said.

Opening statements in the Whitfield murder trial drew a packed courtroom at the Lake County courthouse.

Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Scheller said DNA from blood pulled from carpet inside the store and from the inside of Reckling's Lincoln Town Car match Whitfield's. Scheller also said Whitfield confessed to the murder to his former girlfriend, who is scheduled to testify during the trial.

"On Dec. 8, 1994, Fred Reckling never made it home from work," Scheller said, pointing at Whitfield. "On that night, he came along."

But Gosch said witnesses at the scene saw a former Grand Appliance Store employee, who had been fired, driving Reckling's car the night of the murder.

She also said Edwards confessed to killing Reckling and was found guilty of the murder at trial.

Edwards, who has been incarcerated for an unrelated armed robbery since 1996, said he was physically and psychologically coerced into signing a confession. DNA evidence cleared him in the case in 2012.

The same DNA evidence led authorities to arrest and charge Whitfield on six counts of first-degree murder for killing Reckling. He has been held in Lake County jail since his 2012 arrest in lieu of $3 million bond.

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