Just after 8 p.m. on Oct. 6, 2015 a 20-year-old woman was found blue, unresponsive and slumped over the edge of a bed in the basement of a Marengo home where she lived with her boyfriend and his mother.
“I tried to pull her up, I started screaming,” said Laurie Cool tearfully describing finding her son Brandon Smedley’s girlfriend, who overdosed after shooting a syringe full of heroin into her jugular vein.
Cool gave her emotional testimony Thursday during the drug-induced homicide trial of Durelle Hall who sat stoically.
Hall, who still faces additional drug-related charges she racked up while out on pre-trial bond, was found guilty Thursday after little more than an hour of jury deliberation. And as she has been throughout the lengthy trial, Hall showed no emotion as the verdict was read, but her parents wept behind her.
She faces up to 30 years in prison in Kumm’s death when sentenced in September.
During opening arguments this week in McHenry County, Ill., prosecutors said Hall, 26, sold Chelsie Kumm a lethal dose of heroin.
However, Hall’s defense attorneys said the state cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hall sold Kumm the lethal dose.
Assistant State’s Attorney Randi Freese said Hall, who is days away from delivering a baby, has chosen to make a living as a drug dealer, “selling … poison” and feeding the addiction of addicts.
“You are going to hear about Chelsie Kumm … who had her entire life ahead of her when (Hall) gave her a fatal dose of heroin.” Freese said
Kumm woke up that morning “heroin sick,” Freese said.
Her boyfriend, Smedley boarded a train in Crystal Lake headed to Chicago to buy heroin, but Kumm stayed behind because she said she could get the heroin locally. Smedley never saw her alive again.
Freese said Kumm called a friend to pick her up and she went back to his apartment in Crystal Lake where he gave her $50. Freese said Kumm told the friend the money was so she could buy her “medicine.” The friend gave her the money and 20 minutes later he saw Kumm go outside and make a quick exchange with someone who showed up in a gray vehicle, Freese said.
Kumm then told her friend she had to go home and “prepare” her medicine. The friend told police when he drove her home she went into the basement and never came back upstairs. When he called out to her and she didn’t respond, he left.
Police collected various colored baggies, needles and cooking instruments in the bedroom where Kumm was found. Among the paraphernalia were pink baggies later tested and proved positive for heroin and fentanyl.
Freese said the pink baggies are Hall’s signature drug dealing baggies. Prosecutors showed jurors text messages showing Kumm and Hall set up the drug deal that day. Other texts show Kumm telling Smedley she got heroin from Hall.
“It is very clear who sold (Kumm) the heroin … that killed her,” Freese said.
But defense attorney Vanessa Sheehan told jurors that though the whole story is “very sad” and Kumm and her family have been “ravished” by drugs and addiction -as has Hall’s own family- the state cannot prove it was Hall who sold the fatal dose of heroin to Kumm.
Even if they could prove she sold her heroin that night they could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Hall’s drugs that killed her. During the trial jurors saw police photos showing various baggies in the room where Kumm was found, implying the couple bought heroin from other drug dealers.
Sheehan said Kumm’s addiction began at age 15 and when one is addicted “you live solely to feed that addiction.”
She added Kumm and Hall were friends who ran in the same social circles and that Kumm “was living solely to find her next fix. … She connected with a lot of people that day.”
Sheehan said Kumm was asking “everyone she knew to hook her up.”
Authorities found “a cocktail of substances … in Chelsie’s blood,” Sheehan said.
Noting additional drugs in her system, unaccounted periods of time and missing evidence Sheehan said the state “cannot prove who killed her. … There is nothing good coming out of this case.”
Smedley, 33, said he has battled a heroin addiction for 17 years and has been in recovery the past year. He testified that he and Kumm ingested heroin intravenously, several times daily throughout their relationship. They had made a pact in 2014 that they would work together daily to find heroin to use together. He said they could do between three and seven bags of heroin a day.
He said that morning they “ransacked” his mother’s home hoping to find heroin to help Kumm feel better. Later, he got a ride into Crystal Lake where he sold his mother’s Percocet and made $60, but when he could not score enough heroin for him and Kumm locally, he boarded a train to Chicago.
About 40 minutes into the trip he got a text from Kumm saying she had gotten $50 and was waiting to meet with Hall to bring her heroin. Smedley also said he and Kumm often bought heroin from Hall, including once while her young son was present in her car near his school.
He said Hall sold her heroin in pink or purple baggies, then identified the pink baggies in the room where Kumm overdosed in police photos.
When his mother called to tell him his girlfriend overdosed and to come home, Smedley was at Chicago Avenue and Cicero Avenue on Chicago’s westside. Though he was not charged in her death he said he did not want to return home that night.
“I didn’t want to come home. I didn’t want to live anymore,” Smedley said adding he planned to ingest the heroin he scored and commit suicide. “I didn’t want to go to jail, be drug sick … I lost my lover.”
In closing arguments, Thursday Freese said Kumm had five times the lethal dose of heroin in her system.
She also noted Hall had overdosed herself in 2009 and claims to have last sold heroin around that time.
Freese referred to a police interview, which jurors saw this week, where Hall was crying saying she does not sell heroin and talking about her own overdose and her sister’s drug addiction. But, Freese said, she has no problem selling it “to someone else daughter or sister.”
“Someone who knows the power of that drug and sells it to others is just awful,” Freese said.
About a month after Kumm died police searched Hall’s apartment where they found no heroin but did find crack cocaine and five cell phones that prosecutors said were used for her drug business.
In closings, Sheehan said the state did not prove who had been texting with Kumm that day from phones that belonged to Hall. She sought to cast doubt on witnesses who are known felons and drug addicts including Smedley, who during his second day of testimony appeared to be nodding off just after receiving a methadone treatment.
She also cast doubt on whether Smedley went into the city that day and highlighted the fact that not all drug related items found in the home were tested including two syringes, one found in the basement near where Kumm overdosed that appeared to have water in it.
“That’s reasonable doubt,” Sheehan said.
Hall’s dad Michael, of Lake in the Hills, Ill., said he is “disappointed” with the verdict and doesn’t feel the state had the evidence to convict his daughter. He also expressed sadness for Kumm’s death and her family.
“We are devastated and so worried about the children,” he said of his 6-year-old grandson and Hall’s unborn baby.
Michael Hall, whose younger daughter also is a heroin addict currently in recovery, added that the heroin epidemic needs more attention and the county needs to do more for the addicts.
As she walked out of the courtroom, Kumm’s mom, Kristine Hensley of McHenry, Ill., said she was “very pleased” with the verdict though the ordeal has been “very stressful.”
While she said she is not a vindictive person, she hopes Hall gets a strict sentence though she knows “it’s not gonna bring her back … I just wanted justice.”