Cops & Crime: Marni Yang interview on '20/20'; suburbanite fights to get a coyote back
A suburban woman's legal fight to win back the last of four coyotes seized from her property last year suffered a setback when a state appeals court last Friday refused to grant her an injunction that would return the animal to her.
Tomi Tranchita is suing the state's Department of Natural Resources over the April 2019 removal, alleging she had a legal property interest in the coyotes and that state authorities conducted an unconstitutional seizure when they took the animals.
The coyotes were taken from Tranchita's Tinley Park home to the Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation near Barrington for observation and treatment. Since then, court documents say, three have died from what was believed to be distemper, a viral disease affecting unvaccinated animals.
The fourth, named Luna, is at the center of the lawsuit.
"Luna really needs to come home to be able to heal from the trauma of the past year," Tranchita told us in an email Thursday. "This is the opinion of veterinarians, myself and the rescue where Luna is at today."
The court record makes it clear Tranchita was no misguided animal lover taking in coyotes like they were stray dogs found on the street. According to the documents, she cared for abused coyotes for 13 years -- including the seized Luna, Sandy, Bella and Peyton -- and was licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture when the animals were taken. She also held a state permit from 2011 to 2016 as a fur-bearing mammal breeder.
However, Tranchita admits she allowed that state permit to expire in 2016 by failing to pay a $25 renewal fee. That lapse ultimately led to the coyotes' seizure on the grounds she was keeping them unlawfully. She also was cited by the IDNR that day for lacking proper permits, trapping or capturing a coyote out of season, possessing a coyote without a "hound running area permit," and for unlawfully retaining a coyote.
Last May, a Cook County judge denied Tranchita's request for a preliminary injunction to return Luna. In a 10-page decision handed down May 1, Appellate Justice Sheldon A. Harris sided with the county judge.
"Before the trial court was the fact that plaintiff did not have a valid fur-bearing mammal breeder permit at the time the IDNR seized her coyotes. Pursuant to the Wildlife Code, coyotes possessed without such a permit are contraband," Harris wrote in the unanimous ruling. "Without a legitimate claim of entitlement to the property, plaintiff had no right to a property interest protected by due process when her coyotes were seized."
Tranchita told us she'll press on with her litigation to bring Luna home.
"Luna is a pack animal. I am what's left of her pack," she wrote. "Anything less than Luna coming back to being (in) my care for her last years is cruel and inhumane punishment for Luna and for me."
Tranchita has launched a GoFundMe online fundraiser to help her in the legal fight. So far, it's raised $5,731. She's also urging her supporters to write Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the head of the IDNR.
Suburban murder in the spotlight
Marni Yang's effort to win a new trial will be in the national spotlight when ABC's "20/20" dedicates two hours to her case tonight.
Yang, 52, is serving a life sentence for the 2007 killings of Rhoni Reuter and Reuter's unborn baby in a Deerfield home. Authorities say Yang was obsessed with former Chicago Bears safety Shaun Gayle, the father of Reuter's baby, and killed the mother and unborn child in hopes of having a relationship with the football star.
The "20/20" program will feature an interview with Yang, as well as her three children, who now say they were forced to implicate their mother by overzealous investigators and prosecutors.
Yang attorney Jed Stone will also appear in the report. He filed a petition last year seeking a new trial. In it, Stone says a host of new evidence shows Yang is innocent, including the presence of an unknown man's DNA on five unspent bullet shells found at the crime scene.
The show airs at 8 tonight on ABC 7.
When police departments send out news releases announcing a retirement, it's usually about the chief or some other high-ranking brass.
So when the Buffalo Grove Police Department recently announced the departure of longtime employee Beth Martin, despite the fact she's not a sworn officer, it was a sign of how highly regarded she is around the village.
Martin stepped down last week after more than 35 years with the department, serving in roles ranging from part-time desk officer to evidence custodian to, most recently, the agency's traffic compliance administrator.
Besides her official duties, Martin has been a big part of the BGPD's efforts to raise money for Special Olympics, and she's attended dozens of those events as a volunteer and coordinator.
"Beth's absence leaves a gap in our agency that will be challenging to fill," Chief Steven Casstevens said in the announcement. "We wish nothing but the best for such a committed employee who continually fought to find better ways to do difficult jobs. She will be missed."
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