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Judge to rule on admissibility of statements for trial

Man accused of killing neighbor in 2012

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014 11:09 p.m. CST
Caption
Bruce Gempel

JOLIET – A judge plans to rule on whether statements made to police by a Crest Hill man accused of killing his neighbor will be admissible when he stands trial.

The ruling is scheduled for Aug. 20 and will be based on arguments attorneys made in court Tuesday regarding statements Bruce J. Gempel, 50, made to Romeoville Police Cmdr. Kenneth Kroll.

Gempel’s attorneys said those statements were obtained in an illegal arrest and should not be admissible during trial.

Gempel was taken into custody by Romeoville police in connection with the killing of Dorothy Dumyahn, 89, of the 2300 block of Caton Farm Road. She was found dead by an off-duty firefighter Nov. 18, 2012.

Kroll testified in court on July 24 that Gempel made statements to him while in custody despite being read his Miranda rights multiple times. He was also allowed two phone calls to connect with an attorney, he said.

Gempel had said he “couldn’t believe this was happening” to him and that he was going to “spend the rest of his life in jail,” Kroll said. Gempel said he wanted to meet with the state’s attorney, police and his own attorney to figure out his “best-case-scenario,” Kroll said.

On Tuesday, Gempel’s attorneys, Kristine Honiotes and Frank Astrella, both with the Will County Public Defender’s office, argued Romeoville police did not have probable cause to take Gempel into custody and the male DNA tissue taken from underneath Dumyahn’s fingernails was not sufficient probable cause, either. 

“That essentially narrowed down the suspects to 50 percent of the world’s population,” Honiotes said.

She argued the statements from Gempel were not legally obtained. He was taken into custody by Romeoville police without probable cause for roughly 20 to 30 hours, a calculated move on their part, she said.

Gempel’s time with the police had worn him down and he was unable to seek help since he was in their custody, she said. 

Assistant Will County State’s Attorney Mike Fitzgerald said the police did not try to solicit statements from Gempel and repeatedly warned him of his Miranda rights. 

He said police had probable cause, since Gempel was the only one of six men taken in for questioning with scratches on his face. One woman also was considered a suspect.

Gempel also lived close to Dumyahn and borrowed things from her, he said.

Assistant Will County State’s Attorney Fred Harvey said police also allowed Gempel to call an attorney and family. 

“They bended over backwards to treat him with respect,” he said. 

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