Judge to allow limited expert testimony regarding 'battered spouse syndrome' at Crystal Lake double homicide trial

A McHenry County judge on Wednesday set conditions for expert testimony about battered spouse syndrome at the future trial of a Crystal Lake man charged with shooting and killing his wife and her teenage sister.

Attorneys representing Ryan Yarber argued that the 34-year-old man shows patterns of behavior sometimes present in people who have been abused by an intimate partner.

Yarber is charged in connection with the 2017 shooting death of his wife, 31-year-old Allania Yarber, and her 15-year-old sister, Anniyah Reynolds.

Yarber has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other felony charges tied to the women’s deaths. The man’s attorneys have further claimed Yarber was acting in self-defense at the time of the shootings.

Yarber is accused of shooting and killing his wife and sister-in-law Aug. 3, 2017, inside the home they shared in the 100 block of Marian Parkway.

On Wednesday, the man’s attorneys said the victims yelled at Yarber, threatened him with a knife and prevented him from leaving his home moments before the shootings.

Prior abuse might explain the way Yarber perceived and responded to danger that day, his attorneys said in court Wednesday.

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally, however, questioned whether Yarber’s account of the shooting was altogether truthful or accurate.

If one of the women had been been wielding a knife and “careening toward [Yarber] like she’s Norman Bates at the end of ‘Psycho,’ ” jurors could evaluate the credibility of such a story for themselves, Kenneally said.

According to the judge’s ruling, Dr. Karla Fischer will be allowed to testify about battered spouse syndrome and whether Yarber’s behavior is consistent with the condition.

Fischer cannot, however, give her opinion as to whether Yarber’s actions in 2017 were justified or if he was acting in self-defense, McHenry County Judge Michael Coppedge said.

The case has been set for trial several times, but lingering questions of expert testimony and transcripts of Yarber’s police interview pushed the matter back further last month.

Coppedge brought clarity to some of those questions Wednesday when he allowed partial testimony from Fischer and barred testimony from another expert who performed a neuropsychological evaluation of Yarber.

His attorneys hoped to introduce an expert witness to provide “context” about Yarber’s personality and behaviors, but that request was denied Wednesday.

Coppedge also ruled that jurors will not receive a transcript of Yarber’s Aug. 4, 2017, police interview during deliberation.

McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Randi Freese said the transcript would help guide jurors through the interview audio, which at times is unclear.

Yarber’s attorneys, however, questioned whether the transcript is accurate, noting that Crystal Lake police didn’t transcribe the audio until almost a year after the interview took place.

Yarber’s case was continued to Oct. 14, when defense attorneys likely will seek to bar an informant’s testimony.

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