Gary Gauger's twin sister wiped away tears Tuesday as she told a McHenry County jury she lost a part of her brother during the three years he spent locked up wrongly accused of murdering their parents.
"I got Gary back physically, but it's not the whole Gary," Ginger Blossom testified. "A part of him is gone."
Blossom's testimony came as her brother's attorneys changed pace late Tuesday following nearly two days of intense questioning of three former McHenry County Sheriff's detectives he is suing for malicious prosecution.
Gauger, 57, claims the former detectives - Beverly Hendle, Gene Lowery and Christopher Pandre - concocted a false confession to frame him for his parents' April 1993 killings.
Their actions, he alleges, landed him on death row and inflicted emotional wounds that still exist 16 years later.
The detectives, who all testified this week, repeatedly denied the accusations, saying Gauger voluntarily confessed to killing his parents during 18 hours of questioning.
Largely on the strength of those statements, Gauger was tried, convicted and sentenced to death for killings of Ruth and Morris Gauger on the family's Richmond-area farm.
Three years later, however, he was set free after federal authorities investigating the Outlaws motorcycle gang tied the murders to a pair of bikers. He was formally pardoned in 2002.
His sister said the experience left Gauger a changed man. Once gregarious and outgoing, she said, he now is reclusive and avoids contact even with family members.
"There are just too many sad, painful things to talk about, so we just keep it light," she said. "It's like part of him is locked away or doesn't exist anymore."
Lowery, who now serves as the sheriff's second-in-command, wrapped up his testimony earlier Tuesday, telling jurors Gauger "opened up" during questioning when investigators said they would not judge him.
"That's when Mr. Gauger gave us an account of what happened to his parents," Lowery said.
The suit, which may be seeking $14 million or more, could be in jurors' hands by the end of the week.