An Aurora man accused of gunning down the woman he had two children with fled the crime scene with gunshot residue on his hands, prosecutors say, but his attorneys suggest she was the victim of a drive-by shooting.
The trial of Christopher Whetstone, 48, began Tuesday. He is charged with the murder of Rachel Taylor, 22, who died of two gunshot wounds to her chest and stomach Jan. 13, 2014, after being found on the 500 block of Charles Street on Aurora's west side.
If convicted of murder, Whetstone faces a prison term of 20 to 60 years, plus another 25-year add-on if jurors determine that he fired the shots that killed Taylor.
Whetstone and Taylor had two children, ages 5 and 20 months when she was killed. They had lived with each other for nearly a year before Taylor moved out in fall 2013 to live with her mother in West Chicago, according to court testimony. Authorities said Taylor, a part-time worker at the Batavia Wal-Mart, was shot after a domestic dispute.
Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Alex Bederka told jurors in his opening statement that Taylor was found shot three houses down from Whetstone's home. Witnesses say they saw Whetstone running from the scene, and police recovered spent .22 caliber shell casings near her body and inside her white Dodge Durango, which she had purchased earlier that day.
Tests showed the presence of gunshot residue on Whetstone's hands after he was caught by police, Bederka said. Whetstone even asked an officer for a cigarette, saying it was going to be the last one he would have while free, Bederka added.
"Christopher Whetstone shot Rachel Taylor for the worst reason of all," Bederka said. "Because he wanted to."
But Assistant Public Defender Jackie Leder said Taylor was gunned down in a drive-by shooting.
"That's how Rachel Taylor became a tragic victim on Jan. 13, 2014. It was a chaotic night in Aurora," Leder told jurors, noting how police had responded to a murder at a restaurant earlier that night.
Whetstone ran away from the scene because he wanted to draw gunfire away from Taylor's Dodge Durango, where their children were buckled up in the back seat, Leder said.
She said there were no eyewitnesses of the shooting, noted that police did not recover a gun and only focused on Whetstone as a suspect, and added that the initial 911 call from the shooting said a suspect vehicle was a black Nissan.