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Gauger testimony to turn to murder date

WOODSTOCK – Gary Gauger will testify Thursday about April 9, 1993, the day his parents’ murders were discovered at the Richmond area farm where the three lived.

Gauger’s testimony stopped today before reaching that dramatic point in a civil trial in which Gauger is trying to prove three sheriff’s investigators conspired maliciously to charge him with those murders without probable cause. Gauger, 57, is seeking millions of dollars in damages for post traumatic stress disorder and the 3.5 years he spent behind bars before he was exonerated.

“No one can erase the stain they have put on Gauger’s name, his reputation,” said his attorney, Matthew Crowl. “... But what this case can do is tell the truth.”

In opening statements today, an attorney for the investigators – retired Detectives Beverly Hendle and Chris Pandre and now Undersheriff Gene Lowery – denied any conspiracy to frame Gauger. Rather, attorney James Sotos said, the officers reacted appropriately to the situation and evidence they found.

“The evidence, every shred of it at that point, pointed to Gary Gauger,” Sotos said.

Crowl portrayed the 18-hour police interrogation as a series of manipulations that convinced a vulnerable and exhausted man that he had murdered his parents, although he had not and had no memory of doing so.

Crowl said police lied when they told him they had found bloody fingerprints at the scene, his knife in a pocket, and his bloodied sheets and pants in his room – and they assured him they would lose their jobs if they lied to him. 

Sotos said police were allowed to lie during interviews but denied police used that technique in this instance. Investigators thought Gauger, then a 41-year-old organic farmer, knew more than he was telling them, so they wanted to keep him talking rather than inspire him to end the interview, Sotos said.

Sotos said Gauger told police that he likely slept through his parents’ being shot in a burglary attempt between 8 and 9 a.m., which police thought was odd because the scene offered no signs of a struggle, forced entry or missing items. Also, Gauger’s bed was not far from the trailer where his mother’s body was found or the motorcycle shop where Gauger found his father lying in a pool of blood.

Later, Sotos denied that Gauger told police his alleged “confession” was only a hypothetical account of how he would have killed them in an alcoholic blackout. Rather, Gauger told police that the day of the killings was “a fog” and he didn’t remember doing it.

In March 1996, an appellate court threw out Gauger’s “confession” after law professor Larry Marshall and Northwestern University School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions took up his case.

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