The man accused of killing a Lindenhurst restaurant manager last week was once convicted of killing four members of a Chicago family
But James Ealy's conviction for the 1982 murders in Chicago was thrown out by an appellate court that ruled police acted improperly in questioning him.
Ealy is held without bond in the Nov. 28 strangulation murder of Mary Hutchison, 45, of Trevor, Wis., a manager at the Burger King in Lindenhurst. Police said robbery was the motive for Ealy, a former employee of the restaurant.
Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller said Monday he was upset by the way the victims died in both cases brought against Ealy.
"There are disturbing similarities in the previous case and the one we have against the defendant," Waller said. "In both cases, ligature strangulation was the cause of death of the victims."
On Aug. 16, 1982, Chicago police found the bodies of Christine Parker, 33; her daughters Mary Ann, 15, and Cora, 13; and Mary Ann's 3-year-old son, Jontae, in their apartment in the Rockwell Gardens complex.
All four had been strangled. A green cloth found around the neck of Mary Ann Parker was later identified as having come from a pair of green surgical pants.
An autopsy also revealed a length of tan material knotted on her neck under the green cloth.
Ealy, then 17 and a resident of the same building where the Parkers lived, was taken in for questioning the following day.
During the next 18 hours, Ealy was questioned about inconsistencies in what he told police about where he was on the day of the murders and what his mother had told them. He twice consented to a search of his home.
During one of those searches, police recovered a bundle under Ealy's bed containing two lengths of khaki material, a knife with a bone-colored handle, and a pair of green surgical pants.
A khaki trench coat with its belt missing and other knives with bone-colored handles were found inside the Parkers' apartment, police said.
Police said Ealy ultimately confessed he had been drinking with friends on the day of the killings, later went to the Parkers' apartment and flew into a rage when some members made fun of his "red eyes."
When the case went to trial, Ealy denied making the confession or signing the forms that allowed police to search his apartment.
He was convicted of the murders and sentenced to life in prison.
In 1986, the appellate court agreed to review the case and found police had acted improperly by holding Ealy too long without the probable cause to place him under arrest.
The appellate court struck down Ealy's conviction and ordered a new trial. It also ruled the evidence taken from his apartment and his confession could not be used against him.
Without the critical evidence, prosecutors could not re-try Ealy and ultimately dismissed the charges.
No other arrests in the Parker family murders were ever made.
Waller said he reviewed the appellate court ruling that freed Ealy and disagreed with it.
"I believe the court could have found there was probable cause for the arrest established after the questioning began," he said. "They appear to have focused on the length of time he was questioned and ignored other factors of the case."
Court records also show Ealy has convictions in Cook County for sexual assault, unlawful restraint and unlawful use of a weapon. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1995 in that case.
Waller, who will ultimately decide if he will seek the death penalty against Ealy for the Hutchison murder, said all facts of Ealy's criminal history will be considered.
He said it was too soon to tell how the Parker family murders will figure into his decision.
"We will obtain the police reports and other information about the 1982 case and review it carefully," Waller said. "If it is appropriate, we will use it in making future decisions."
'He should not have been on the street'
Illinois Appellate Court responsible for murder
Suspect freed in '82 killings