Two theories in Yang murder trial
Authorities believe the shooting started as soon as Rhoni Reuter opened her front door.
Eight shots were fired and six found their mark, including two that tore through the daughter Reuter was to give birth to in less than three months.
The final blast from the 9 mm weapon extinguishing two lives on the morning of Oct. 4, 2007, went into the back of the head of the 42-year-old mother-to-be and burrowed into the tile floor beneath her face.
Over the next two weeks, nine men and three women seated in a Lake County courtroom will be told that the gun was in the hand of Marni Yang, a Chicago woman prosecutors say was obsessed with the former football player who was the father of Reuter's baby.
They will also be told that the police fast-tracked the investigation into the slayings by focusing on Yang and used a woman with vivid fantasies to trick Yang into confessing.
"As Rhoni Reuter was leaving to go to work and go about her business, the defendant was lying in wait," Assistant State's Attorney Patricia Fix said Friday in her opening statement.
"As she opened the door to her home, Marni Yang stood in front of her and executed her."
Fix told the jurors in the courtroom of Associate Judge Christopher Stride that the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force uncovered a diabolical plot that led to the killings.
Yang owned a 9 mm pistol that she practiced firing at a shooting range in the weeks before the slayings, Fix said, and bought special grips for the weapon to decrease the possibility it would retain fingerprints.
Yang also paid for a throwaway cell phone in cash and rented a car similar to one seen leaving the parking lot of Reuter's Deerfield condominium shortly after the shootings, Fix said.
And Yang ordered a book on making silencers for weapons, Fix said, then went to a hardware store on the day the book was delivered to buy many of the parts called for in the text.
But Yang's undoing was completed, Fix said, during the course of conversations Yang had with Christi Paschen in an Arlington Heights restaurant on March 1 and 2, 2009.
Fix said Yang went to Paschen for a Tarot card reading and the two became friends and confidants.
When task force investigators traced a phone call from the cell phone Yang had bought to Paschen's address, Fix said Paschen agreed to cooperate in the investigation.
Paschen wore a concealed microphone to the restaurant meeting with Yang, Fix said, and recorded in chilling detail the entire plot to kill Reuter and the baby.
"You will hear the defendant's own words resonate through this courtroom," Fix told the jurors. "You will hear the defendant describe exactly what she did."
Nonsense, replied defense attorney William Hedrick in his opening statement.
Hedrick said investigators were so desperate for the cement they needed to build their case against Yang that they went to a woman who describes herself as a psychic enlisted by the United States government for secret missions.
"She (Parsons) claims she was recruited by an Army general to read the minds of the Russians," Hedrick said. "She claims she was sent on a mission to the Middle East in which all of the men in her unit were killed and she was brought back and underwent a mind-wash."
Hedrick said the recorded conversation between Parsons and Yang amounts to a "festival of liars," as the women tried to outdo each other with what he called "tall tales."
The task force allowed the real killer to slip through their hands by concentrating on Yang, Hedrick said, and should have done more investigation of other available suspects.
One of which is former Chicago Bears safety Shaun Gayle, who Yang knew was the father of Reuter's baby and who Yang was far from obsessed with, Hedrick said.
Yang knew she was only one of Gayle's "18 or 19 girlfriends" at the time, Hedrick said, and was in a serious relationship with a Cook County sheriff's deputy.
Later in the day Friday, Christa Amsden testified that she lived in the condo unit beneath Reuter's and was aware of Reuter's morning routine because she could hear Reuter moving around above her.
On the morning of Oct. 4, 2007, Amsden said, she heard a short scream, a sound she described as "pop, pop," and heard a loud crash on the floor.
Amsden said she called Reuter's apartment and left a message asking Reuter to call her if she was all right, then called a neighbor who had also heard the noise. "I had not heard back from Rhoni and did not hear anyone moving around up there," Amsden said. "I looked out the window and saw Rhoni's car was still in her parking space, so I decided to call the police."
Testimony is expected to continue on Monday.