WOODSTOCK – Two former sheriff’s detectives repeatedly denied Monday that Gary Gauger offered a hypothetical account of how he killed his parents or told them that he didn’t remember doing so.
McHenry County Undersheriff Gene Lowery and retired Detective Beverly Hendle also testified that they didn’t lie to Gauger about the evidence they had during the 18-hour interview shortly after the murders were discovered. They contradicted claims that Gauger made last week during his civil trial in which Gauger alleges that Hendle, Lowery and retired Detective Chris Pandre conspired to maliciously prosecute him for his parents’ April 1993 murders.
Gauger, 57, is seeking millions of dollars in damages from the sheriff’s office for the 31⁄2 years he spent in prison and for post-traumatic stress disorder. He was sentenced to die by lethal injection after a McHenry County jury convicted him of the murders in 1993, but ultimately that conviction was overturned and former Gov. George Ryan pardoned him.
Much of Monday’s testimony focused on Hendle’s and Lowery’s recollection surrounding what police said was Gauger’s confession, the polygraph test results that were inconclusive and how the detectives memorialized the marathon conversation in a single set of notes and reports. None of the interview was taped and Gauger was never asked to sign a written statement.
Lowery’s testimony is expected to continue this morning and the trial could finish this week.
Lowery said Gauger began confessing about 7 a.m. April 19, 1993, which was about 15 hours after police took him to a conference room in the sheriff’s office.
“He gave us an account that was like living it,” Lowery said, adding that Gauger made a single slashing motion to demonstrate how he slit each of his parents’ throats.
Police later would learn that Morris Gauger’s throat was slashed twice, his skull fractured and his side stabbed. They also later would learn that Ruth Gauger’s throat was slashed three times and her skull also was fractured, but the detectives did not know that during the interview, Hendle said.
Both Lowery and Hendle denied telling Gauger that police had a stack of evidence or had found bloody fingerprints, his bloody clothing and bedsheets or his bloody knife. They said Gauger never seemed tired from the time police took him to a conference room about 4 p.m. April 9, 1993, until the time he asked for an attorney at 10:22 a.m. April 10, 1993.
“He said he was a coffee freak, and we drank coffee all night long,” Hendle said, adding that he was talkative throughout the night.
But Gauger said he asked to end the interview about 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. and then later asked if he could lie down. Gauger said police denied those requests.
Hendle also denied that a polygraph examiner said his results were inconclusive because Gauger was fatigued when given the lie detector test about midnight.
“The first time I saw that was in his written report weeks later,” Hendle said. “He didn’t tell us that.”
Rather, Hendle said, the polygraph examiner said he needed to study the records but couldn’t pass Gauger.
She said Gauger was free to end the conversation – which she said did not become an interrogation until after the polygraph examination – even after police gave him jail clothing with “McHenry County Jail” written on the back about 5:40 a.m. so they could examine the clothing he was wearing.
“That’s the only clothing we had to replace the clothing he voluntarily gave us,” Hendle said.
Gauger testified last week that he created a hypothetical account of how he might have committed the murders to see whether he could jog his memory if he had blacked out committing the crimes. But Hendle denied Gauger ever told police his account was hypothetical.
“He never mention a blackout that I’m aware of,” she said.