Judge: Searches of garbage legal in Lake Co. murder investigation
Police acted legally when they collected and searched the garbage of a Chicago woman accused of killing a Deerfield woman and her unborn child, a Lake County judge ruled Thursday.
Police began collecting the garbage of Marni Yang, 43, just four days after Rhoni Reuter and Reuter's unborn daughter were gunned down in Reuter's Deerfield apartment on Oct. 4, 2007, an evidence technician testified.
Yang was not charged in the killings until March 2009, when police said they secretly recorded her telling a friend about the killings.
Police said Yang committed the murders because she was jealous of Reuter's relationship with former Chicago Bears safety Shaun Gayle, the father of the unborn child.
Robert Ogden, a Bannockburn police evidence technician assigned to the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, said Yang was identified as a person of interest in the murders early in the investigation.
On Oct. 8, 2007 and for 14 weeks afterward, Ogden said, he and other officers went to an alley behind Yang's house in the 5100 block of St. Louis Avenue in Chicago.
Ogden said he and his crew always went between midnight and 1 a.m. on Thursdays, because the garbage was due to be picked up in Yang's neighborhood later that morning.
He said the officers would find four large garbage containers with Yang's house number on them, load the plastic garbage bags into a van and take the bags to the Deerfield police station to search through the contents.
Ogden said the officers found mail, bank statements, credit card receipts, medical records and other documents in the garbage, which they turned over to detectives to be analyzed.
Yang's attorney William Hendrick argued police had no right to search the garbage because no one had seen Yang put any of the bags in the cans, and no police officers checked to make sure the cans were not on Yang's property.
But Assistant State's Attorney Ari Fisz argued a person forfeits all property rights and expectations of privacy when he or she throws something into the garbage and puts it out for collection.
Associate Judge Christopher Stride agreed, saying there were "dozens, if not hundreds" of prior court rulings upholding the right of police to search garbage set out for collection.
Yang, who faces up to life in prison if convicted of the killings, is due to appear in court Jan. 13 and a trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 28