Public defender concerned about cost of DNA murder trial for fatally stabbed Edwardsville couple

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | May 8, 2019


Madison County public defender John J. Rekowksi expressed concern over the cost of investigating DNA evidence found in the master bedroom of an Edwardsville couple who were stabbed to death in March. 

During a May 3 Judiciary Committee meeting, Rekowksi said that during the last major DNA murder case that his office worked on, the county spent $42,000 on DNA tests and qualified experts, and that’s not including what the state spent.

“That’s the kind of money we’re talking about if we get into having a full litigation in a case with DNA,” he said. 

Rekowksi added that DNA murder cases also chew up tremendous amounts of time. 

“I literally cannot tell you how much time myself, the other lawyer and the investigators spent coordinating the DNA” in the last major murder case with DNA evidence, he said. 

Rekowksi told the Judiciary Committee that he anticipates having a better idea of the case schedule at the next meeting, and he is still crunching numbers on how much money he may need to request in order to properly work the case. 

Rekowksi also filed a motion to continue a hearing on the state’s motion to consume biological specimens on May 6. 

He argued that the state has supplied defendant Zachary Capers of Collinsville with a 28-page Grand Jury transcript and 210 pages of reports detailing the seizure and transfer of hundreds of pieces of evidence. 

“The state has not provided one page of substantive investigative reports on this case,” Rekowksi wrote. “The state now wants to consume biological specimens in testing which will make them, by definition, unavailable for testing by the defendant.”

He added that in addition to the “inadequacy” of the motion to consume biological specimens, “the defendant is face (sic) with a quandary.”

“The defendant is represented by the Public Defender whose office is funded by tax revenue from Madison County residents. As chief Public Defender the undersigned is responsible for operating the office in a fiscally responsible manner and to operate the office within budget.

“Both defendant’s DNA testing and observing State DNA testing is an extremely costly expense when defendant’s counsel has to retain qualified DNA experts,” he wrote. 

Rekowksi said the state has had over one-and-a-half months to provide the investigative file, and until he has had the opportunity to review the evidence reports he requests a continuance.

“The Public Defender is on the ‘horns of a dilemma’ in deciding whether to retain experts from its limited resources for either testing or observation of testing because, on one horn, if the money is expended and regardless of the results, the evidence is either irrelevant or only tangentially important to the case, the money is wasted. 

“On the other horn, if the money is not expended and the evidence is crucial, the opportunity for either testing or observation is forever lost to the defendant along with his constitutional rights to effectively confront the laboratory witnesses against him,” Rekowksi wrote. 

Madison County Assistant State’s Attorney Jacob Harlow filed the motion to consume biological specimens on April 18, stating that partial rubber glove pieces were found on the bed and floor of the master bedroom of Michael and Lois Ladd’s residence. 

Harlow also wrote that “blood-like staining” was found on the master bedroom walls of the victims’ residence and the outside of the heel of Capers’ left boot when police inspected his clothing at the Madison County jail. 

The motion states that the samples recovered from the evidence swabs are of such small amounts, “that proper DNA testing requires that the entire samples be consumed during the testing procedure.”

Capers, 23, is charged with first-degree murder for allegedly fatally stabbing the Ladds on March 17 at their home in Edwardsville. 

Lois Ladd, 68, was a chiropractor, and her husband, Michael Ladd, 79, was a contractor. Their bodies were discovered on March 18 after Lois Ladd failed to report to work. 

Investigators and prosecutors haven’t publicly offered a motive for the killings. 

Rekowksi previously said he intends to seek a psychiatric evaluation for Capers. 

In 2017, Collinsville Police responded to a “mental subject” call and took Capers to a Granite City hospital that has a psychiatric unit. During the past two years, police across Madison County have had dealings with Capers, some of which involved odd behavior, such as walking in traffic and yelling at cars.

Portions of a rubber glove or gloves could be significant pieces of evidence. They could possibly be used to argue that the crimes were premeditated, not the actions of someone with a diminished mental capacity.

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Madison County Judiciary Committee Madison County Public Defender Madison County State's Attorney's Office

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