Check ’n Go murder case left in hands of jury
By Jim Newton firstname.lastname@example.org September 27, 2013 5:16PM
Melinda "Mindy" Morrell
Updated: October 29, 2013 6:06AM
Armed with a videotaped confession, ballistics evidence and almost a week’s worth of trial testimony, prosecutors in the first-degree murder trial of Montego Suggs told the jury Friday that they had proved Suggs “executed” Mindy Morrell of Round Lake Park.
Defense attorney Randie Bruno countered that the 16-hour interrogation of Suggs, drawn out over five days, left Suggs a “broken down, beaten down” man whose confession was coerced, and that the evidence against him was primarily circumstantial.
Following closing arguments that concluded late Friday afternoon, Sept. 27, the murder case was left in the hands of the jury, which began deliberations in the final phase of the trial.
Suggs, 29, of Kenosha, allegedly shot Morrell in the back of the head during a robbery of the former Check ’n Go on Green Bay Road in Waukegan on the late afternoon of May 21, 2007.
According to police and prosecutors, and details of Suggs’ confession, he walked into the store as Morrell was coming out of the back room, forced her to the floor and asked where the key to the cash drawer was. After he got the key, he took cash from the drawer and took Morrell, 22, to the back of the store to get the surveillance tape.
Prosecutors said he then shot her in the back of the head as she lay on the floor. Suggs claimed in his confession that the gun went off accidentally.
“He committed first-degree murder because he didn’t want to get caught (for the robbery). He killed her so he could get away with it,” Assistant State’s Attorney Ari Fisz said in closing arguments. “The desire not to get caught outweighed Mindy’s life to him.”
In addition to attacking the interrogation, Bruno showed jurors a picture of Suggs just after he was arrested following an unsuccessful robbery May 26, 2007, at the Ma & Pa’s Corner Store in Beach Park.
In the picture, Suggs is wearing a white shirt and red pants, after a dispatcher had alerted police to watch for a suspect wearing a black shirt and black pants who had fled the Corner Store.
She said it’s “inexplicable” that Suggs could have ended up in a different outfit after being pursued in his car and on foot by police “unless he is a quick-change artist, which isn’t true.”
Much of the trial focused on videotaped clips from the interrogation of Suggs, which prosecutors said not only contained a clear confession, but showed that his questioning consisted of 16 hours of actual interviews over a period of 96 hours, roughly five days.
But Bruno said that Detective Chuck Schletz, while a trained professional, was clearly using tactics to falsely make Suggs think he was befriending him and that he was the key to making the interrogation stop.
She pointed to comments made by Schletz including “you are a gift to the world,” and “I will fight for you.” She noted Schletz also referenced God, the Bible and the suffering of Job and said the detective’s intention was certainly not to have a theological discussion.
“I’m going to fight for you? What the heck is that,” she asked the jury. “That’s nonsense. An attempt to get exactly what he did get, a confession.”
Prior to the closing arguments, Morrell’s mother, Sheryl Morrell, said the last time she saw her daughter was Sunday night, May 20, 2007. When she couldn’t reach her at work or by cellphone the afternoon of the next day, the day of the murder, she said knew there was a problem because Mindy always stayed in touch.
“By the time I left work, something didn’t feel right,” she said.
After calling Waukegan police three times, she was finally told of her daughter’s murder early that evening.