Howard defense seeks to bar dying declaration

Attorneys for D’Andre Howard, charged with the April 2009 slaying of three members of a Hoffman Estates family, are seeking to bar prosecutors from introducing into evidence a declaration allegedly made by one of the victims as she died.

Claiming statements 18-year-old Conant High School senior Laura Engelhardt made to police are inadmissible hearsay under Supreme Court rules, Cook County Assistant Public Defender Georgeen Carson filed her motion to exclude them during a hearing Thursday before Cook County Judge Ellen Mandletort.

Howard, 24, has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Laura Engelhardt, her father Alan Engelhardt, 57 and her maternal grandmother Marlene Gacek, 73, at the family’s home. Police also charged Howard with the attempted murder of Shelly Engelhardt, Laura’s mother and Alan’s wife, who was seriously injured in the attack.

At the time, Howard was dating Alan and Shelly Engelhardt’s oldest daughter, Amanda, who is the mother of Howard’s second child. Son Jeff Engelhardt was away at college at the time.

Prosecutors say Howard stabbed the victims to death after arguing with Amanda Engelhardt. In a videotaped interrogation with police, Howard claimed he stabbed Laura Engelhardt in self-defense after they engaged in horseplay with a knife. If convicted of two or more counts of first-degree murder, he faces life in prison without parole.

During a pretrial hearing in July 2011, Hoffman Estates police officer Michael Turman testified that he asked the injured teenager who stabbed her and her family, she responded “Dre.” Turman then asked her, “who’s Dre?” at which point Howard stated, “I’m Dre.”

“She stabbed me first,” Howard told the officer.

Turman testified he asked Laura if that was true. She responded “yes,” closed her eyes and stopped talking, Turman said.

In homicide trials, dying declarations made by an individual conscious of his or her approaching death are typically admitted as an exceptions to the hearsay rule.

Howard’s attorneys argued in their motion that Laura’s statement should not be admitted in part because nothing indicates she believed she was dying and she never stated she believed she was dying. Moreover, defense attorneys argue that Laura Engelhardt “may not have been in possession of her faculties” and was therefore unable to provide an accurate account to police.

Additionally defense attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the aggravated kidnapping charges against Howard.

Mandletort will hear arguments at Howard’s next hearing on Dec. 4.

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