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Gary Gauger

Other Illinois Exonerations with Jailhouse Informants
Convicted and sentenced to death for the 1993 double murder of his parents in McHenry County, Illinois, Gary Gauger was released in 1996 after charges were dismissed, and later pardoned by Governor George H. Ryan in 2002 based on actual innocence.
Morris and Ruth Gauger – dairy farmers who owned a motorcycle shop and sold imported rugs – were murdered on April 8, 1993, at their McHenry County farm.  The following day Gary Gauger discovered the body of his 74-year-old father and called 911 to summon paramedics, who notified the sheriff’s office.  Shortly after deputies arrived, they found the body of 70-year-old Ruth in a trailer from which the rugs were sold. 
Lacking any evidence or signs of forced entry, police took Gauger to the police station for questioning.  During an 18-hour interrogation, detectives lied to Gauger and misled him. They claimed that they had found blood-soaked clothes in Gauger’s bedroom; and they told him that he had failed a polygraph test which was, in fact, inconclusive.  Gauger was persuaded by the interrogators to discuss a hypothetical situation, describing how he would have killed his parents during a possible alcohol-induced blackout.  The interrogation was not tape-recorded and Gauger did not sign a confession.  His hypothetical statements were later used in court in support of a claim that Gauger confessed to the crime.
Gauger was indicted in early May and tried for the double murder.  The prosecution relied on the alleged confession and the testimony of a jailhouse informant, Raymond Wagner. In addition, a forensic scientist testified that hairs near Ruth’s body could have been broken and stretched in manner consistent with Gary’s confession, but also acknowledged that they could have been broken during combing and brushing.  The jury found Gauger guilty, and Judge Henry L. Cowlin sentenced him to death on January 11, 1994.  After Lawrence C. Marshall from Northwestern University agreed to take the case on appeal, Judge Cowlin reduced the sentence to life in prison.

In the fall of 1995, federal authorities learned that Randall E. Miller and James Schneider, members of the Outlaws motorcyle gang, could have been responsible for the murders. At that time, Outlaws member Mark Quinn became an informant for the federal government and said that Miller and Schneider were involved. Federal agents passed on Quinn's information to McHenry County authorities within several weeks, but Gary Gauger remained in prison for close to another year while county police and prosecutors evaluated the reliability of the information.

In March 1996, the Illinois Appellate Court delivered a unanimous ruling that Gauger’s alleged confession should not have been admitted in evidence because it was the product of an illegal arrest without probable cause.  The case was remanded for a new trial.  Although the State’s Attorney, Gary W. Pack, continued to maintain that Gauger committed the murders, he was forced to dismiss the charges and Gauger was released from prison on October 4, 1996.
In June 1997, a federal grand jury indicted Schneider and Miller on 34 counts of racketeering, including the murders of Morris and Ruth Gauger.  Schneider pled guilty to acts relating to the murders in 1998, and was sentenced to 45 years. Miller was convicted in June 2000.  At Miller’s trial, prosecutors played a recording of a conversation made by Quinn in which Miller said that the authorities could not to link him to the Gauger murders because he had been careful not to leave physical evidence. Miller was sentenced to two life sentences.
Gauger received a pardon based on innocence from Governor George H. Ryan in December 2002.  In 2004 he received $60,150 from the Illinois Court of Claims, but a federal lawsuit against county officials was dismissed. Gauger later filed a lawsuit in McHenry County Circuit Court and a jury found against him. 
Rob Warden

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 4/18/2020
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1993
Age at the date of reported crime:41
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No