Ex-girlfriend describes killings in Howard trial

A tearful Amanda Engelhardt told jurors today that she fell asleep after a prolonged argument with former boyfriend D'Andre Howard and awoke to find him holding a knife to her throat in the first moments of a rampage that left her sister, father and grandmother dead.

Amanda Engelhardt and the baby she has with Howard were not injured in the April 17, 2009, melee at the Engelhardts' Hoffman Estates home.

Howard's trial on murder charges began Wednesday in the Rolling Meadows courthouse, with his attorneys arguing he was insane at the time of the attacks.

Amanda Engelhardt, 28, testified for the prosecution that Howard stabbed to death her 18-year-old sister, Laura Engelhardt; her father, Alan Engelhardt; and her maternal grandmother, Marlene Gacek. Shelly Engelhardt, Laura's and Amanda's mother and Alan's wife, was seriously injured but recovered and is expected to testify for the prosecution.

Howard sat expressionless during most of Amanda's testimony but covered his face at one point.

Amanda testified her three-year relationship with Howard, 25, had become strained by Howard's unfounded accusations of infidelity.

The couple had several arguments the day before the murders, Amanda Engelhardt testified, before Howard ordered her and their then-8-month-old daughter out of their Hoffman Estates apartment. She took the baby to her parents' home on Bluebonnet Lane, where Howard arrived in the hours after midnight. They talked for a while, Amanda said, and she fell asleep. She awoke to Howard holding a kitchen knife to her throat, she testified.

Amanda Engelhardt told jurors that Howard ordered her and Shelly to sit back to back on the floor in the den and he tied their hands together with Shelly's yarn.

Howard accused her of cheating on him and complained that the family never accepted him, Amanda Engelhardt said.

Next, Howard went upstairs and woke Laura at knife point, brought her into the den and tied her up, Engelhardt said.

Shelly's sister entered the room, and Howard ordered her to sit on the sofa, Amanda Engelhardt said. Saying he wanted to talk, Howard put down the knife and untied Laura, who grabbed the knife and stabbed him, Amanda Engelhardt said.

“They fought for the knife, and he stabbed her,” she said.

Shelly Engelhardt screamed at Howard to stop, and he stabbed Shelly multiple times, Amanda Engelhardt said. She testified that Howard met Gacek — who was awakened by the commotion — in the kitchen and stabbed her there. The screams also woke Alan Engelhardt, who made his way to the kitchen and was killed there, Amanda Engelhardt said.

With her family members dead or dying, she said, Howard ripped the phone off the wall and refused to let her call 911.

Walking between the den and the kitchen, Howard “apologized off and on to everybody,” Amanda Engelhardt said, adding he said “he was sorry demons had gotten him.”

Lying down, he apologized to Laura, Amanda Engelhardt said.

“What did she say?” asked Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Maria McCarthy.

“That she forgave him,” Amanda Engelhardt said.

Quiet sobs from family members and friends, including half a dozen of Laura's friends, accompanied Amanda Engelhardt's testimony.

The trial continues Thursday afternoon.

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D'Andre Howard
Alan and Shelly Engelhardt (back row); Laura Engelhardt (center); Amanda Engelhardt (first row) and Jeff Engelhardt (first row) courtesy of the Engelhardt family
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