Suspect takes stand in pub shooting trial — (Kane County Chronicle) Elgin spree killer gets death — (Chicago Tribune)

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Kane County Chronicle

Nov 27, 2001

By VICTORIA A.F. CAMRON, editorial@kcchronicle.com

ST. CHARLES — Luther Casteel doesn’t remember April 14.
He doesn’t remember being escorted out of JB’s Pub in Elgin after being rude to a woman.
He doesn’t remember going home, shaving his head, changing into a camouflage jacket and arming himself with two shotguns and two handguns.
He doesn’t know if he returned to the tavern, shot at two occupied cars in the parking lot, then entered the bar yelling, “Where’s the fat (expletive deleted) who threw me out?”
And he doesn’t recall the shooting spree that left two men dead and 16 others injured, Casteel testified Thursday before Circuit Judge Donald Hudson.
Casteel, 43, of Elgin, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm.
The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office will seek the death penalty if he is convicted.
Public Defender David Kliment has claimed Casteel is not responsible for his actions on April 14 because the combination of alcohol and medications left him intoxicated.
During two hours of testimony, Casteel told the jury about the stress he was under at work and because he was trying to sell his condominium to move to St. Charles.
He admitted being at JB’s Pub with his girlfriend on the evening of April 13. He paid the tab at 8:55 p.m. and went home, Casteel said.
The last thing he remembers is sitting on the couch, drinking beer, he said.
The next thing he knew, he was waking up at the Kane County Jail, Casteel testified. He was transported to the jail on April 15.
In the meantime, prosecutors allege, Casteel returned to JB’s Pub, where he propositioned a group of women, then got in an argument with another woman.
Bouncer Russell Newberg Jr. advised Casteel to calm down and, when he didn’t, escorted him from the establishment, the bouncer testified earlier.
Casteel threatened Newberg before going home, and returned an hour later to begin the rampage.
Elgin police detective Lt. Scott Davis said that when he first saw Casteel at the police station, he thought the defendant was intoxicated.
“My observation was that his eyes were bloodshot,” Davis said. “There appeared to be an odor of alcohol about him. My impression was that he was intoxicated.”
Casteel told the officer his last name and spelled it, Davis said.
After spelling his last name for the detective, though, Casteel asked Davis why he was at the police station, Davis testified.
During questioning, though, Casteel was cooperative and responsive, Davis testified under cross-examination.
To support his client’s claim of intoxication, Kliment showed the jury pictures of Casteel’s home. Empty or near-empty beer bottles were piled up on the kitchen counter and scattered on the coffee table.
A doctor diagnosed Casteel with bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disease, in January and he was taking medications for it, Casteel said. Previously, prosecutors introduced as evidence a bottle of prescription Zoloft that was missing only four pills.
When Kane County assistant state’s attorney Bob Berlin questioned Casteel about this discrepancy, the defendant said he was taking a second prescription for the same medication.
Two Elgin Fire Department paramedics testified Thursday that they treated Casteel for a bump on the head and vomiting at the Elgin Police Department at about 3:20 a.m. April 14. Casteel told them he’d consumed “several beers” and was in a fight, they testified.
When they examined him, Casteel said he did not remember his last name, his birthday or his address, the paramedics testified.
Under cross-examination, both paramedics said confusion and vomiting could be a result of a head injury. Berlin also pointed out that they didn’t know if he was telling them the truth when he said he did not remember his personal information.
Portions ©2001, The Kane County Chronicle
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Elgin spree killer gets death — (Chicago Tribune)

January 04, 2002|

By Mickey Ciokajlo, Tribune staff reporter

Moments before a judge sentenced him to die Thursday, the Elgin man convicted of carrying out a murderous shooting rampage in a local bar lashed out at the tavern’s employees, accusing them of instigating the violence.
“I’ve been in that bar at least 50 times and I’ve always been a gentleman,” said Luther Casteel, 43, claiming the attack was not premeditated. “If I had planned to do this, I assure you there would have been no survivors.”
Elgin spree killer gets death – Chicago Tribune

Kane County Circuit Judge Donald Hudson did not respond to Casteel’s comments, but in sentencing him to death by lethal injection, the judge said the former truck driver “harbored contempt for the sanctity of human life itself.”

“He simply did not care about the devastating consequences of his actions, but the court does care,” Hudson said. “This is a case that, by any standards, cries out for the imposition of the death penalty.”

Employees of JB’s Pub who attended the sentencing dismissed Casteel’s statement, saying he was a stranger at the bar who was thrown out earlier on the night of the shooting for causing trouble.

Although Gov. George Ryan placed a moratorium on executions, death-penalty cases are still moving through the legal process.

Ruling that two previous armed-robbery convictions qualified Casteel as a habitual offender under state law, Hudson also sentenced Casteel to life in prison for 15 counts of attempted murder.

Hudson sentenced Casteel to die for the April 14 shooting deaths of bartender Jeffrey Weides and patron Richard Bartlett.

Casteel had been kicked out of the bar for harassing women and quarreling with employees. He drove home, shaved his head and returned with four guns and more than 200 rounds of ammunition.

About 40 bar employees, shooting victims and their families, many wearing purple JB’s Pub shirts, attended the sentencing. Several could be heard sniffling as Kane County State’s Atty. Meg Gorecki recapped the shooting and reiterated the testimony of victims.

When Hudson asked him whether he would like to say anything on his own behalf, Casteel remained seated and spoke in a firm voice, reiterating his lack of fear of the death penalty.

He then blamed the bar for his drunkenness and said the bouncers provoked him.

“Something happened that night. I was drunk. They kept feeding me alcohol,” said Casteel, who tried to use his intoxication as a defense at trial. The bouncers “caused me to lose control and come back and start shooting in that bar.

“I had no reason. “I don’t even know these people other than I met them once or twice.”

Assistant State’s Atty. Robert Berlin said Casteel’s statements were not surprising.

“He’s never shown one bit of remorse,” Berlin said after the hearing. “He’s constantly blamed everyone else for everything that he has done in his life.”

Dale Koehring, a JB’s bartender and a close friend of Weides’, disregarded Casteel’s comments. Instead, Koehring said he was focusing on the victims and the lives that Casteel devastated.

“It’s closure, but does it make it better? It’ll never make it better,” Koehring said. “I lost my best friend.”