Howard claims self-defense in videotaped interview

D'Andre Howard reiterates his claims of self-defense in the deaths of three members of a Hoffman Estates family in a videotaped interview with police recorded hours after the April 2009 slayings.

The videotape was played Wednesday afternoon before Cook County Judge Ellen Mandletort, continuing a pretrial hearing on the defense's motion to suppress the statements Howard, 23, made to police about the deaths of 18-year-old Conant High School senior Laura Engelhardt, her father Alan Engelhardt, 57, and Alan's mother-in-law Marlene Gacek, 73, on the morning of April 17, 2009.

Shelly Engelhardt, mother of Laura and wife of Alan, was injured but recovered. Oldest daughter Amanda Engelhardt, Howard's then-fiance and mother of their infant daughter, was also present. Neither Amanda nor the child were injured. Son Jeff Engelhardt was away at college at the time.

On Wednesday, prosecutors played the final hour of Howard's rambling, convoluted statement — which he made after waiving his Miranda rights — offering his version of events which he previously characterized as horseplay turned deadly. Prosecutors rejected his self-defense claims and his explanation that the victims were stabbed during a struggle over a knife. They say he murdered the family members following an argument with then-girlfriend Amanda Engelhardt.

In his statement, Howard says he tried to clean up the scene and that he asked Amanda to call police.

“This is a tragedy” over a “stupid knife fight,” Howard told detectives.

The bloody footprints found at the scene were Amanda's, said Howard, who claimed on tape that he tried to use one of the knives to kill himself, an action he pantomimed for officers.

Maintaining his innocence, Howard insisted he was defending himself, adding that he believed the law allowed him “one lick” to defend against an attacker.

“I know I didn't do anything wrong,” he said, asking to see Amanda and his daughter and repeatedly yelling out their names.

“You can't do this to me. I'm not under arrest,” he insisted. “You can't withhold my child. This is illegal.”

“I'm not in custody. I'm not in custody,” said Howard, claiming he was being held against his will and asking several times to see a lawyer.

At one point, he suggests his presence at the station might have something to do with his race.

“I'm a black kid in Hoffman Estates,” he said, suggesting that was a motive for authorities wanting to lock him away. “Lock the black kid up. He has no future.”

Cook County Assistant Public Defender Jim Mullenix has argued that the court should not allow the jury to view the videotape. He says police coerced statements from Howard, who did not understand he was under arrest at the time.

The hearing continues Sept. 26 when both sides are scheduled to present arguments.

The Engelhardt family