Serving a double life sentence for killing the pregnant girlfriend of ex-Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle, Marni Yang is hoping new DNA tests will pave the way for her exoneration.
Lake County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Stride on Thursday signed an order for the testing of shell casings from the bullets used to kill Rhoni Reuter, 42, of Deerfield, who was seven months pregnant when she died in 2007.
“I know her trial was highly watched, and the evidence seemed overwhelming,” said Jed Stone, Yang’s defense attorney. “But we are on a truth-seeking mission.”
Stone said he has retained a highly-respected DNA expert to attempt to extract “touch DNA” from the shell casings that Stone said could identify “the real killer.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Ari Fisz said prosecutors have no objection to Stone’s request.
Following her conviction in Lake County Circuit Court, Yang lost an appeal in the 2nd District Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear her case.
But Stone said Yang’s first, direct appeal was limited to information used during the trial. Stone is now putting together a post-conviction petition, a collateral appeal that can bring in new evidence that wasn’t heard at trial.
Reuter was pregnant with Gayle’s daughter when Yang shot her six times in Reuter’s Deerfield condominium on Oct. 4, 2007. Two of those bullets also struck and killed the unborn baby.
Prosecutors said jealousy was the motive that led Yang to kill Reuter.
During the trial, Gayle testified that he had a sporadic sexual relationship with Yang, including a meeting the night before Reuter was murdered.
Investigators focused in on Yang in 2009, when police wiretaps caught Yang talking about the murder to a friend.
Yang also had ordered two books explaining how to make a silencer for a handgun, and she went to a home improvement store to buy the necessary items the day the books arrived, according to testimony at trial.
Yang searched the Internet to find where Reuter lived, and wore a wig, dark sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt as a disguise the day of the killing, according to authorities.
Police said she waited in the hallway outside of Reuter’s condo and opened fire when Reuter opened the door to leave for work.
The trial and Yang’s conviction in 2011 drew national media attention and spurred a sensationalized TV “re-enactment” of the crime.
Yang is being held at the Dwight Correctional Center and is ineligible for parole if her remaining appeals prove unsuccessful.