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Man charged in triple-homicide case found guilty

Published: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 11:12 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 11:14 p.m. CDT

ROLLING MEADOWS – A suburban Chicago man on Tuesday was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2009 stabbing deaths of his girlfriend’s father, sister and grandmother, despite defense claims he was insane at the time.

D’andre Howard was accused in the deaths of 57-year-old Alan Engelhardt, 18-year-old Laura Engelhardt and 73-year-old Marlene Gacek. The three were killed after Howard was involved in an argument with his then-girlfriend Amanda Engelhardt at the family’s Hoffman Estates home.

Throughout Howard’s trial, defense attorneys argued their 26-year-old client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was legally insane at the time of the attack. However, prosecutors said the insanity defense was merely an act.

“You can bring down the curtain on his final act,” Assistant State’s Attorney Mike Gerber said during closing arguments.

Prosecutors did not challenge Howard’s PTSD diagnosis, but they insisted he was legally sane at the time of the April 17, 2009, slayings. His trial came more than five years after police were called to a home in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates to discover a grisly scene in a house where the victims were fatally stabbed.

Authorities said Howard got into an argument with Amanda Engelhardt at their apartment when he confronted her over suspicions she was cheating on him.

The next night Howard went to the home of his girlfriend’s family, authorities say. She was there and the two argued again, with Howard allegedly grabbing a butcher knife, threatening other family members and tying his girlfriend, her sister and mother with yarn.

According to authorities, he put down the knife to untie his girlfriend and Laura Engelhardt grabbed it and stabbed him in the arm.

A report by psychologists for Howard’s attorneys calls that the “final trigger” for the brutal attack that left three people dead and the girlfriend’s mother seriously injured.

“He goes nuts,” defense attorney Deana Binstock said of Howard, attacking the same family that had treated him like a son. “In his mind, it is kill or be killed.”

Howard testified he heard voices and sirens in the lead-up to the crime. And his attorneys in final arguments said Howard thought angels and demons were “battling over his soul.”

Prosecutors called the assertions “nonsense.”

Cook County Circuit Judge Cook County Judge Ellen Mandeltort set a July 9 sentencing date.

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