Prosecutors said Monday they intend to seek the death penalty for D'Andre Howard, a 21-year-old man charged with killing three members of a Hoffman Estates family.
Following that announcement, Howard glanced at his biological mother and two cousins sitting in the Rolling Meadows courtroom as deputies led him back to jail, but he showed no obvious emotion.
Outside the courtroom, Howard's mother, Constance Taylor, who lives in Minnesota, said, "Let the family know that we send our condolences out to them."
"And we pray for them every day," added cousin Justina Howard, 28, of Chicago.
Howard has been charged with murder, attempted murder, aggravated kidnapping and other felonies in connection with the fatal stabbings of 18-year-old Laura Engelhardt, her father, Alan, 57, and her maternal grandmother, Marlene Gacek, 73, during the early morning of April 17 in the Engelhardt family's home.
Howard was in a relationship with Amanda Engelhardt, 23, and is the father of her baby daughter, neither of whom were physically injured. Shelly Engelhardt, 52, was stabbed during the attack, but survived.
While the Cook County state's attorney's office has been in contact with the Englehardt family, prosecutors Maria McCarthy and Michael Gerber declined to say whether surviving family members wanted the state to seek the death penalty.
"If you do something, you deserve the time, but I don't believe in the death penalty," Howard's mother said.
"I would love to meet my grandchild," added Taylor, wiping away tears as she said she has never met any members of the Engelhardt family.
Contacted by telephone, Shelly Engelhardt said she knew about the state's decision to seek the death penalty, but did not want to comment on any aspects of the case.
Prosecutors McCarthy and Gerber said Howard is eligible for the death penalty because he killed multiple victims, and committed those murders during the commission of another felony.
Prosecutors also asked for the court's help in getting records from the Department of Children and Family Services. Assistant Public Defenders Jim Mullenix and Julie Koehler say Howard's childhood spent in foster homes included physical, sexual and psychological abuses that could be factors during the trial.
Judge Joseph Urso, the presiding judge of the Rolling Meadows' Third Municipal District, withheld judgment on an earlier defense motion to remove the death penalty option due to a lack of money needed to mount a defense. The state is expected to restore money to the Capital Litigation Trust Fund next month.
Howard remains in Cook County jail with no bond. The next court date is set for 9:30 a.m. Oct. 16 in Rolling Meadows courtroom 108.