Trial proceedings began this morning in the case against 72-year-old Robert D. Harris of Virginia in Cass County Court.
Harris is accused of murdering 68-year-old Kathleen G. Wzientek of Virginia and 64-year-old Brenda G. Crum of rural Virginia at Wzientek’s home on January 10th of last year.
The 12 jurors and two alternates made up of six women and eight men, heard brief opening arguments before Cass County State’s Attorney Craig Miller began the State’s Case in Chief.
Three separate calls to 911 dispatch were heard from the day of the shooting, in which Wzientek’s son David Miller could be heard calling for police and EMS to the home he shared with his mother at 140 South East Street in Virginia. David Miller told the dispatcher that “Robert Harris shot and killed my mom and Brenda Crum, and shot me in the head”
David Miller, who is no relation to State’s Attorney Craig Miller, later took the stand and testified that Harris came to their home at approximately 1:00 in the afternoon, the day after his mother, Kathleen Wzientek ended the long time, off again-on again relationship she had had with Harris.
David Miller testified that Harris used a key to the home he had in his possession to unlock the front door. David Miller said he met Harris at the door and stuck his hand out to stop Harris, telling him “you’re not welcome here”, to which he says Harris replied, “Oh yeah, well I’ve got a gun.”
David Miller then testified that Harris then immediately raised the gun approximately three inches from Miller’s head and pulled the trigger. David Miller said he reared his head back when the gun came up and the bullet grazed the top of his head, drawing blood but not puncturing the skull.
Miller said in the process, he fell back onto the floor and became disoriented, noting that he saw Harris pass by him and head down the hallway toward the back bedroom before he then heard multiple gunshots.
Miller said he thought Harris was gone by the time he was able to compose himself. He ran to his bedroom to grab a gun of his own and then called 911. Miller’s girlfriend Lisa Pinkerton testified she saw Harris drive by the home multiple times earlier that morning in his maroon Pontiac G6 while she was making breakfast.
After a court recess for lunch, Robert Harris’ daughter Bobbi Harris took the stand and testified to phone calls she had with her father the day of the murders. She said she spoke to him once before the shootings occurred in which he said: “I’m going to kill them,” but never referenced who he was talking about.
She said it was a statement she had heard both Harris and Wzientek use over the years when they were mad and she didn’t think much of it. She later talked to him after finding out something had happened at Wzientek’s home. She said he wouldn’t say what happened, but said he asked her if he should turn himself in or kill himself.
Robert Harris’ brother John Harris then took the stand, testifying that he also spoke with Robert on the phone after the shootings and he would not say what happened, but that he wanted to kill himself. Both Bobbi Harris and John Harris testified they told him not to go through with suicide.
Illinois Conservation Police Officer Seth Thornley and Illinois State Police Master Sergeant Bryce Hager each testified to their involvement when Robert Harris was apprehended in rural Morgan County on Farmer Road near Ring Road.
The jury was next shown photos of the crime scene including spent .22 caliber casings that were found in multiple areas, as well as a projectile that was found on the bed near one of the victims. Illinois State Police Crime Scene Investigators testified to the evidence found in the home, as well as evidence collected from Harris’ Pontiac after it was taken to the Jacksonville Police’s evidence lock-up.
A Ruger .22 caliber handgun was found in a gun case in the trunk of the car during a court-authorized warrant search of the vehicle. Harris was driving the Pontiac at the time he was apprehended.
Cass County Circuit Judge Timothy J. Wessel called the court into recess at 4:00 pm. Day two of the Robert Harris murder trial will begin Wednesday at 8:30 am at the Cass County Courthouse.