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Gempel’s statements at issue in murder trial

Published: Thursday, July 24, 2014 11:22 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 5:23 p.m. CST

JOLIET – A judge could decide next month whether statements made to police by a Crest Hill man accused of killing his 89-year-old neighbor will be admissible when he stands trial.

Evidence presented during a pretrial hearing Thursday by the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office includes “spontaneous” statements that Bruce Gempel, 50, made to a commanding officer at the Romeoville Police Department while in custody in connection with the slaying of Dorothy Dumyahn.

Dumyahn’s body was found Nov. 18, 2012, when a passing off-duty firefighter noticed smoke coming from her house in the 2300 block of Caton Farm Road. The firefighter forced the front door open and pulled Dumyahn out of the house to find she already was dead. She was stabbed 20 times, police say.

Gempel’s statements – coupled with male DNA found under Dumyahn’s fingernails – could be deemed admissible during trial if Livas rules that way Aug. 12 at a scheduled continuation hearing. But Livas ruled last month that police did not have probable cause to take Gempel into custody when they did.

Kenneth Kroll, commander with the Romeoville Police Department, testified Thursday that Gempel made statements to him while in custody despite being given his Miranda rights multiple times. He also was allowed two phone calls to connect with an attorney, Kroll said.

Gempel said he “couldn’t believe this was happening” to him and that he was going to “spend the rest of his life in jail,” Kroll testified. Gempel also said he wanted to meet with the state’s attorney, police and his attorney to figure out his “best-case scenario,” Kroll said.

Julie Glasner, assistant director for the Illinois State Police Crime Lab in Joliet, testified that DNA from tissue found beneath Dumyahn’s fingernails was found to be from a male.

Six men and one woman had been taken in for questioning, but only Gempel had a scratch on his face, Kroll said.

Gempel’s attorneys, Kristine Honiotes and Frank Astrella, both with the Will County Public Defender’s office, argued Gempel was “worn down” and “illegally and improperly” taken into custody, so his statements should not be admissible during trial. Honiotes also said male DNA being present underneath Dumyahn’s fingernails does not constitute probable cause.

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