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Deerfield murder was calculated, officials say
By Tony Gordon and Russell Lissau | Daily Herald Staff

Deputy Police Chief Rick Wilk, left, and State's Attorney Michael Waller detail the case Wednesday in the 2007 shooting death of Rhoni Reuter, the girlfriend of former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Marni Kay Yang

 

Officials at the Wednesday press conference at Deerfield Police Department concerning the arrest in the Rhoni Reuter homicide investigation.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Officials at the Wednesday press conference at Deerfield Police Department concerning the arrest in the Rhoni Reuter homicide investigation.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

State's Attorney Michael Waller

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 3/3/2009 8:30 PM | Updated: 3/4/2009 8:03 PM

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The 2007 murder of a woman and her unborn child in a Deerfield apartment was not the result of a sudden burst of passion, officials said Wednesday.

Instead, they said Marni Kay Yang methodically plotted her attack on Rhoni Reuter, 42, and the baby Reuter was carrying, and then went to great lengths to conceal her involvement.

A disguise, a rental car, stolen license plates and a gun with a homemade silencer were among the tools the 41-year-old Chicago resident used to commit and cover up the crime, authorities said.

"This was a murder that was committed in cold blood," Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller said.

A Lake County judge ordered Yang, of the 5100 block of North St. Louis Avenue, held without bond after a court appearance where prosecutors detailed the evidence they have against her.

Reuter was shot seven times with a 9 mm handgun shortly after she opened the door to her Deerfield condominium on Oct. 4, 2007. Both she and her unborn child were pronounced dead at the scene.

Deputy State's Attorney Jeff Pavletic said Yang's motivation was jealousy over the fact Reuter was five months from giving birth to Skylar Reuter Gayle, who had been fathered by former Chicago Bear star Shaun Gayle.

"This was a planned murder to remove Rhoni and her unborn child from Shaun Gayle's life," Deerfield Deputy Police Chief Rick Wilk said during a news conference.

Gayle attended a bond hearing Wednesday and released a statement through his attorney, saying he and Yang were friends and business associates who never had a dating relationship. Officials did not elaborate on their relationship during the news conference.

Nonetheless, Pavletic said, Yang was jealous that Reuter was pregnant with her "boyfriend's daughter," and also worked to discover names and addresses of other women Gayle dated and harassed them.

In August 2007, about two months before the murders, Pavletic said, Yang bought a book on the Internet about building silencers for handguns. She went to a hardware store and bought all the parts the book said were needed to construct a silencer for a 9 mm handgun. Authorities knew Yang had owned a 9 mm since at least 2005.

Yang was observed firing a 9 mm handgun at a shooting range in August and September of that year, Pavletic said.

The day before the killings, Pavletic said, Yang exchanged a Kia rental car for a Volkswagen rental, fitted the Volkswagen with stolen license plates, then returned the Volkswagen to the rental agency the following day.

"The Volkswagen had a total of 40 miles on the odometer after it was returned," Pavletic said. "That is the exact distance from the rental agency, to the house of a friend of the defendant's, to the Reuter house and back to the rental lot."

Also on that day, Pavletic said, Yang went to a drug store and bought a shower cap and a hairnet police believe were part of a disguise she wore to the crime scene.

Yang did stay at her friend's house the night of Oct. 3, Pavletic said, and told her friend she intended to kill Reuter the next day.

Yang returned to the house the next day and told her friend she killed Reuter, officials said. She said she encased the gun in concrete and threw it into a garbage bin in Chicago, Waller said.

The weapon hasn't been recovered.

The friend told police she was with Yang the day after the murder when Yang drove to another garbage bin and threw away the disguise and the stolen license plates.

They then drove to a Cook County forest preserve, Pavletic said the friend told police, where Yang buried items taken from Reuter's home.

The friend directed police to the general area where the items were buried, Pavletic said, and police recovered a pearl bracelet inscribed with the word "Pregnant."

A friend of Reuter's identified the bracelet as one Reuter owned, Pavletic said.

Although Yang was a suspect early in the investigation, the case against her took time to build, officials said.

The breakthrough came through a strategy developed by prosecutors and investigators of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, Waller said.

Lake County officials worked with Cook County prosecutors to obtain court orders allowing them to tap Yang's cell phones, he said.

Investigators from Lake County went through state police training to operate a surveillance room to listen to Yang's conversations around the clock, Waller said. It was the first such operation in Lake County history, he said.

Yang was recorded admitting the killings to a friend on the telephone. That same friend later agreed to cooperate with police, and wore a hidden microphone to record Yang again admitting to the killings at an in-person meeting, he said.

"Some of the things she said could only have been known by the murderer," Waller said.

Because she is charged with the murders of two people, Yang is eligible only for sentences of life in prison or death if convicted of both slayings, Waller said.

No charges are expected to be filed against the friend who assisted police, Waller said. Yang committed the crimes alone, he said.

Yang made no statements to police or prosecutors after her arrest, Waller said.

Associate Judge Raymond Collins ordered Yang to appear in court March 19.