Yang found guilty in 2007 murders
A Lake County jury took only four hours Tuesday to convict Marni Yang of all charges in the murders of Rhoni Reuter and Reuter's unborn baby in their Deerfield home on Oct. 4, 2007.
Because the jury found that the killings were committed in a "cold and calculated manner," Yang, 43, will face a mandatory life prison sentence when she returns to court April 29.
Prosecutors contended throughout the three-week trial that Yang was obsessed with former Chicago Bears safety Shaun Gayle, the father of Reuter's baby, and killed them both to secure her relationship with Gayle.
"This was an execution," Assistant State's Attorney Ari Fisz said in his closing argument. "A very well planned, carefully thought-out execution."
Gayle, who cooperated with the investigation and even allowed police to tape-record conversations with Yang in his house, said he was relieved at the verdict.
"Justice is served, and it has been a long time coming," Gayle said. "I just wanted to make sure the person who did this was made to pay."
More than a dozen witnesses testified to a diabolical plot the state said Yang hatched -- from building her own silencer for her gun, to placing stolen license plates on a rented car, to disposing of the weapon in a bucket of cement.
But Yang made enough mistakes along the way, Fisz said, to allow police to pick up her trail.
She used her debit card in the same department store where she had purchased a disposable cell phone just five minutes earlier, allowing investigators to tie her to the phone.
She rented a car on Oct. 3, then returned it the following day with the odometer showing the exact mileage from the rental agency to Reuter's condo and back.
But Fisz said Yang's real undoing came in her conversations with Christi Paschen, Yang's close friend and psychic adviser.
A call from the disposable phone made just 79 minutes after the murders was traced to Paschen's work phone, and although Paschen originally lied about what she knew about Yang's involvement in the crime, she agreed to cooperate with police in early 2009.
Paschen wore a concealed microphone to record conversations she had with Yang in an Arlington Heights restaurant in which Yang described the murders in chilling detail.
"She got the defendant talking about the murders," Fisz said. "The defendant thought she was confiding in a friend, but was really confessing to police."
On the tapes, played in the courtroom last week, Yang describes standing outside the front door of Reuter's condo.
"I took the first shot," Yang says on the tape. "I remember screaming because at that point I realize we are at the point of no return and I just started emptying the clip."
Reuter was struck by six bullets, two of which also struck her unborn daughter, and a pathologist testified Reuter was killed by a final shot fired into the back of her head.
Assistant State's Attorney Patricia Fix said the tapes of Yang's confessions cemented the case against her.
"We had a very good circumstantial case against her with a mountain of evidence," Fix said. "But we kept going back to get the thing that would bring it all together."
Yang's defense team attacked Paschen, who claimed to have been sent on secret missions to the Middle East by the Army, as "the liar of all liars" and said Yang merely made up the things she said to Paschen.
"The fact is she lied to you; she lied to each and every member of this jury," defense attorney William Hedrick said in his closing argument. "She lied from the moment she hit that witness stand and never stopped."
The Lake County Major Crimes Task Force targeted Yang as the suspect within four days of the killings and ignored other suspects, Hedrick also said in his closing argument, including Gayle and another woman Gayle was involved with.
"This wasn't a small potatoes case and it wasn't a small potatoes crime," Hedrick said. "It should not have been a small potatoes investigation."
Jesse Gonzalez, an investigator for Gurnee police and commander of the task force, said after the arguments that Hedrick's criticism was off base.
"We conducted a thorough and professional investigation," Gonzalez said. "The facts and the evidence led us to Marni Yang."
Fisz asked the jurors to discount the attacks on Paschen and concentrate on the evidence she had provided investigators.
"Whatever you may think of her, whether you think she is goofy, wacky or eccentric," Fisz said, "she knows how to press 'record.'"
Thad Reuter, the victim's brother, said the verdicts brought a certain degree of peace to the family.
"This has been a very long process for us in bringing the person responsible for this to justice," he said. "Needless to say, we are overjoyed at the verdict."