Trial under way in ex-Bear girlfriend's murder

March 4, 2011 4:23:21 PM PST
The trial of a woman charged with killing the pregnant girlfriend of a former Chicago Bear got under way Friday.

Marni Yang, 43, is accused of carrying out a jealous rage against Rhoni Reuter, 42, in 2007. Prosecutors say Yang, wearing a disguise, shot and killed Reuter, who was more than six months pregnant. Two bullets were aimed at Reuter's womb. Yang faces charges of first-degree murder and intentional homicide of an unborn child.

Yang sat through the proceedings that began at 9 a.m. Friday, wearing a plain black top with her long hair pulled halfway back.

Reuter was the girlfriend of Shaun Gayle, who played on the Bears' 1985 Super Bowl team.

In opening statements prosecutor Patricia Fix said, "this began with a plan and it was a plan to kill Rhoni Reuter and her unborn child."

Fix told jurors about a recorded conversation with Yang, saying: "You will hear the defendant's own words. The defendant's own words will describe what she did...the planning, the deliberation, the plots to conceal."

Yang's defense attorney Bill Hedrick said in opening statements, "Marni Yang was not obsessed with Shaun Gayle as the state would suggest. Marni Yang had a long standing boyfriend."

Hendrick allege investigators missed other possible suspects. "Rather than following other possible leads, the police aggressively pursued Marni Yang," he said in court.

"She's a victim. She is a single mother of three small children. And they don't have the evidence to back up their charges," Hendrick later told reporters.

The first witness jurors heard from was Reuter's downstairs neighbor, Christa Amsden. She testified the morning of Reuter's murder, "I heard a short scream and a plup, plup and a big crash. It startled me."

Amsden later testified about the sounds she heard saying, "I saw a crime drama and a silencer was used. It sounded like that."

Reuter's family left the courtroom before testimony about the crime scene in which paramedics described Reuter as unrevivable in a pool of blood and jurors were shown video of the scene.

Gayle will be in court at some point during the trial to testify for the prosecution. The trial could last up to three weeks.

If Yang is convicted, she could spend life in prison.