Marni Yang is serving a life sentence in prison today for the murder of Rhoni Reuter and her unborn child, though she is fighting the conviction through an appeal she now hopes will exonerate her. Reuter was the longtime girlfriend of former Chicago Bears player Shaun Gayle.
Prosecutors alleged that Yang, who was also romantically involved with Gayle, killed Reuter out of jealousy, and a jury found her guilty. But Yang’s attorneys say forensic evidence proves she is innocent, according to the appeal filed in her case. Yang and Gayle met in 2005 when Yang was working security at a Chicago Bears convention. Yang was a realtor who began working with Gayle, but their relationship turned sexual, then possessive, family and friends testified, according to the appeal. Read more about Reuter’s death and murder here.
ABC 20/20 is taking another look at the murder case in an encore episode airing tonight, Friday, July 16, 2021, at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
Here’s what you need to know:
Yang’s Attorneys Claim She Can Be Exonerated Based on New Forensic Evidence
Yang’s attorney, Jed Stone, told ABC 7 Chicago in May 2021 they uncovered new forensic evidence that they believe will exonerate Yang.
“I think it’s literally a game changer,” Stone told the news outlet.
Yang’s family hired noted forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht to look into the case, ABC 7 reported. Wecht has worked on many high-profile cases such as the death of Kurt Cobain, President John F. Kennedy and Anna Nichole Smith’s son, Daniel Wayne Smith.
Wecht determined that bruising and other injuries to Reuter’s face occurred two to four days before her death, not when she fell after she was shot, the article said. Other private investigators working for Yang said the angle of the bullet wounds indicate someone much taller than the 5-foot woman killed Reuter, the article said.
Today, Yang is 53 and serving a life sentence on two counts of murder at the Logan Correctional Center, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Here is her prison record:
Defense attorneys also cast doubt on the testimony of Christi Paschen, Yang’s close friend of 20 years, according to an appeal filed in the murder case. Defense attorneys said Paschen claimed to be a psychic hired by the U.S. Army, and said she falsified claims about any military service.
“Paschen claimed to be the sole survivor of her ‘final mission’ in the Middle East, and, afterwards, the military erased some of her memories,” the appeal said. “Detective Charles Schletz testified that Paschen told him that she fabricated her military experience to enhance her resume as a psychic.”
Prosecutors Allege Yang Described the Murder in Detail to a Friend, Built a Homemade Silencer & Wrote a Letter to Reuter About Gayle’s Affairs
Family and friends testified that Yang’s relationship with Gayle was problematic, according to an appeal filed in Yang’s case. They said she bragged about accessing Gayle’s email account and posed as another women in emails. When she learned about a trip Gayle planned with Reuter, she called to cancel the reservations, the appeal said.
Court documents said Yang told Paschen she was going to kill Gayle because of his relationships with other women. She then decided to instead kill Reuter, Paschen told investigators. Yang once went to Reuter’s apartment with a gun, but decided not to kill her, court documents said. Later, she described the murder in detail to Paschen, saying she dressed up in a wig and face paint and shot Reuter to death, court documents said.
Shortly before the murder, Yang bought a two-volume set called “How to Make a Disposable Silencer,” and then bought the materials at Home Depot, the court documents said. Investigators found a typed letter in Reuter’s purse warning about “what your boyfriend is doing.” It said he was carrying out sexual relationships with women in destinations all over the world and listed names and contact information for 16 women “so you can see for yourself,” according to court documents filed in the murder case.
Paschen agreed to wear a wire and recorded a confession where Yang described her actions, saying she remembers Reuter screaming, the court documents said.
“…at that point I realized we are now at the point of no return,” Yang said in the recorded conversation, according to court documents. “Any thoughts that we had about turning back—we got to finish this now. And I just started emptying the clip.”