Prosecutors on Tuesday dove into text messages they said were between 25-year-old Paige Hoover and Peter Fonte, a 45-year-old Cary man killed by an overdose caused by drugs police say Hoover supplied.
The messages, the prosecutors contend, tell a different tale than the one Hoover provided to a Cary police Sgt. Greg Rutzen, then a detective, in a voluntary interview in late June 2018, just over a month after Fonte's death. She is on trial for drug-induced homicide, which could carry a sentence of up to 30 years in prison if she is found guilty.
Hoover, of Lake in the Hills, initially denied to Rutzen that she ever spoke about drugs with Fonte, according to a video of the interview played in court by prosecutors.
Fonte was killed by an overdose of heroin and fentanyl, according to a forensic pathologist, Mark Peters, who testified Tuesday.
Hoover told Rutzen she had met Fonte just the day before his May 18, 2018, death, at an establishment called the Cuckoo's Nest in Cary, where she said she stopped to have a drink with her boyfriend.
But when Rutzen told Hoover he had seen messages on Fonte's phone to a contact named Paige with a number matching hers, she then told the officer she spoke with Fonte about the possibility of facilitating some kind of transaction but one never occurred. Hoover had been "clean" for months, she told Rutzen, denying that she had recently used drugs.
"It never ended up happening; it was just talk," Hoover said in the interview with Rutzen. "He ended up not liking the price and I didn't want to sell anything. I have literally never sold drugs before."
Hoover on May 18, 2018, the day after meeting Fonte at the Cuckoo's Nest, told Rutzen she agreed to give Fonte a ride because she was in his area and he offered to provide her $10 in gas money. Hoover said she took him to the Pingree Road train station in Crystal Lake, where Fonte got out and briefly met with a man on a bike she described as Hispanic and in his thirties.
That man, prosecutors said, was Andrew Silva, who testified Monday that he received heroin from Fonte at the train station and saw a woman matching Hoover's description in the car with Fonte. Soon after receiving the drugs, Silva said, he overdosed outside his Crystal Lake home, shortly before Fonte's fatal overdose. Silva survived after McHenry County sheriff's deputies responded and administered multiple doses of Narcan, a life-saving overdose reversal drug.
But Hoover's defense attorney, Steve Greenberg, took issue with his discovery during the trial that messages existed between Silva and Jeffrey Hauck, a Crystal Lake man who was sentenced to nine years in prison in November after being convicted of drug-induced homicide in a woman's death, the same charge Hoover is facing for Fonte's overdose.
The messages between Silva and Hauck are relevant, Greenberg said, because they were exchanged the same day of Fonte's death and should have been disclosed to the defense.
Silva was the prosecution's "star witness" and the state knew Hauck was a drug dealer, said Greenberg, who has attempted to show that Fonte and Silva each communicated with more than one person that day about obtaining drugs.
Greenberg said the lack of disclosure of Silva's conversations with Hauck was a problem becasue a former longtime prosectuor, Mick Combs, who worked on Hauck's case was also involved in Hoover's case until his recent firing from the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office. Greenberg said he thinks Hauck qualifies as an alternate suspect and asked the judge to consider a motion that would evoke that designation in the case.
Greenberg said he would have pressed Silva harder about his correspondence with Hauck during Monday's cross-examination and would have interviewed Hauck ahead of the trial had the disclosure been made. At one point, Greenberg said Rutzen "had tunnel vision" while investigating Fonte's death.
Prosecutor Susanne Groebner defended the decision not to disclose the text messages, saying "Mr. Silva said he didn't know who the defense counsel was talking about." She was referring to when Greenberg showed him Facebook messages on the stand purportedly between Silva and someone named Jeffery.
McHenry County Circuit Judge Michael E. Coppedge is considering Greenberg's motion and has not yet ruled on it.
Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday after calling McHenry police officer Jaimie Prather to the stand. She extracted data from cellphones thought to belong to Fonte and Hoover. The data showed Fonte's phone, which was colleted by police at the scene of his death in his mother's home, had exchanged texts with the phone police say is Hoover's.
One of those messages, allegedly from Hoover to Fonte, said, "I was going to go to my guy in the actual city because his stuff is a lot better."
Hoover told Rutzen she was not comfortable talking about what she meant by "stuff," according to the video played Tuesday in court. She also told him that Fonte told her he had been taking Xanax, drank half a bottle of whiskey while he was in her car and "trips on acid every weekend."
A toxicology report performed as part of an autopsy on Fonte showed he had more than five times the thereapeutic threshold amount of fentanyl in his system, as well as signs of cocaine and benzodiazepine use, the forensic pathologist testified.
The trial will resume Thursday afternoon when the defense will be given the chance to call witnesses.