Howard plans insanity defense in Hoffman Estates slayings

Defense attorneys announced Monday they intend to pursue an insanity defense for D’Andre Howard, charged with the April 2009 slayings of three members of a Hoffman Estates family.

The defense is pursuing the strategy despite not having an expert to testify that Howard, 24, was legally insane when authorities say he killed Laura Engelhardt, an 18-year-old Conant High School senior, her father Alan Engelhardt, 57, and her maternal grandmother Marlene Gacek, 73. He also is accused of seriously wounding Shelly Engelhardt, Alan’s wife and Laura’s mother, at the family’s Hoffman Estates home. The Engelhardts’ son Jeff was away at college at the time.

Case law allows the introduction of proof of insanity through lay people who may testify about the defendant’s behavior around the time of the alleged crime, Cook County Assistant Public Defender Deana Binstock said after a hearing before Cook County Judge Ellen Mandletort.

Binstock argued that she and co-counsel Georgeen Carson should “be allowed to put forth witnesses to speak to his behavior” on the day in question.

Last month, Mandletort denied a defense motion to introduce expert testimony regarding Howard’s childhood diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, which Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Maria McCarthy had described as “vague, speculative and irrelevant.”

Howard’s “mental health is still an issue. This is an appropriate and legitimate way to bring in the mental health piece,” Binstock said.

In addition to the insanity claim, Howard’s attorneys will argue that he acted in self-defense on April 9, 2009.

“It’s not an either-or situation,” Binstock said. “Self-defense may be appropriate for one victim and not another.”

Prosecutors say Howard stabbed the victims after arguing with oldest daughter Amanda Engelhardt, the mother of his second child, who he was dating at the time. Amanda and the child were not injured.

Howard claims 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, Howard faces life in prison. He next appears in court on April 29.

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