Convicted Tuesday of stabbing to death three members of his ex-fiance Amanda Engelhardt's family in their Hoffman Estates home, D'Andre Howard faces mandatory life in prison when he is sentenced, possibly as soon as July 9.
"At least part of (the Engelhardts') nightmare is over, knowing the person who did this to their family will never walk free again," said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Maria McCarthy.
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"The jury absolutely got it right," said Amanda's brother Jeff Engelhardt, 26, adding the verdict brought "just incredible relief."
Jurors took just 98 minutes to find Howard guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of Amanda's sister Laura, 18; their father Alan, 57; and their maternal grandmother Marlene Gacek, 73. Jurors also found Howard guilty of the attempted murder of Shelly Engelhardt, Amanda and Laura's mother and Alan's wife.
Amanda Engelhardt and her then-infant daughter with Howard were present but were not injured during the rampage that unfolded early on April 17, 2009.
Howard's lawyers argued he was legally insane at the time of the murders. Prosecutors disagreed.
"A crime may be horrendous, bizarre or shock the senses," McCarthy said during closing arguments, but that doesn't mean the person who commits it is insane. "A person can commit an unspeakable crime and still know what he was doing was wrong."
Howard's behavior -- using yarn to tie up Amanda, Laura and Shelly, attempting to clean up the crime scene with bleach, preventing Amanda from calling for help for several hours after the attacks, and pulling phone cords out of the wall to stymie 911 calls -- was "purposeful and goal directed," McCarthy said.
"These are the actions of a sane person," she said.
After the verdict, lawyers for Howard, the father of Amanda's 5-year-old daughter, offered condolences to the Engelhardts.
"Our hearts go out to the family of the victims," Cook County Assistant Public Defender Deana Binstock said.
Still, Binstock expressed disappointment defense lawyers were not allowed to present evidence of "the tragedy of (Howard's) life," which included childhood physical and sexual abuse and neglect that resulted in him being diagnosed at age 6 with post-traumatic stress disorder.
She said they will appeal the verdict.
Howard showed no emotion upon hearing the verdict, which brought his parents, Earl and Constance Howard, to tears.
Testifying in his own defense on Monday, Howard said he believed his and Amanda's apartment and Amanda's engagement ring were bugged. He also said he heard voices, was tormented by demons and that a noise like a siren sounded in his head as he "slashed wildly" at his victims.
Characterizing his testimony as "ridiculous," McCarthy argued that "anger, jealousy and (a desire for) control" motivated Howard and said his attacks against Amanda's family were motivated by outrage over his belief Amanda was unfaithful.
He "wanted to hurt Amanda in the worst possible way because she had hurt him," McCarthy said.
In her closing arguments Binstock insisted her client did not intend to kill anyone that morning; that Howard merely wanted to stop the voices and sirens in his head. She said Howard's mental illness made him unable to appreciate the criminality of his conduct and, therefore, legally insane.
"You don't turn on your loved ones if you're in your right mind," she said. "You don't make life a living hell for yourself and everyone else unless you're crazy."
To that end, Binstock quoted Amanda's statement to authorities that Howard "snapped." She also referenced Shelly's statement to emergency room personnel that Howard "went crazy" and started stabbing everyone.
Mental health professionals testified for the defense that Howard suffers from schizo-affective and personality disorders. However, neither testified he was insane at the time of the murders.
Distraught and delusional, Howard broke with reality and transitioned into "survival mode," said Binstock who described him as out of control "fighting with everyone he encounters."
"In his mind, it was kill or be killed," she said and in that moment, "D'Andre destroyed the best thing he had going for him. He couldn't stop himself until it was too late."
"Nonsense," said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Michael Gerber during his closing argument. He referred to Howard as an actor putting on a show and urged jurors to "bring down the curtain on his final act."
Bristling at Howard's testimony he heard voices, he insisted "the only voices that were heard by this guy were the voices of those poor souls begging for their lives."
"This loving family let him in to share their hopes, dreams and future, and he repaid them by carving them up like pieces of meat," Gerber said. "He not only killed people, he killed (a family's) dreams, a future."
• Daily Herald Staff Writer Jamie Sotonoff contributed to this report.