Mental patient gets 66 years for vicious attacks in Carpentersville
By Dave Gathman email@example.com October 15, 2013 1:24PM
Daniel J. Happ
Updated: November 17, 2013 6:21AM
ST. CHARLES TWP. — Barring an appeal, a chronic mental patient who admitted to a brutal crime wave inside a Carpentersville townhouse last year won’t be seeing the outside world again until he’s at least 84 years old.
Daniel Happ, 28, of Carpentersville was sentenced late Tuesday to 66 years in prison. He must serve at least 55 years and nine months of that even if he earns time off for good behavior.
The sentencing followed a day of graphic testimony, including a weeping man who testified that the day Happ raped the man’s 8-year-old daughter, hammered his 24-year-old girlfriend into brain damage and stabbed his dog Rufus “is the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night.”
In August, Happ pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the attack, which took place in a townhouse along Brookdale Drive on the night of March 6-7, 2012.
Kane County Circuit Court Judge Clint Hull sentenced him Tuesday to 45 years for predatory criminal sexual assault, 20 years for attempted murder and one year for aggravated cruelty to animals.
Happ could have been sentenced to anywhere from 12 to 93 years.
One of the first police officers on the scene, Officer Joseph Gutierrez, testified that what he found inside the townhouse “looked like a horror movie.” He said he found blood splattered throughout the living room, an upstairs bathroom and the bedroom where now-24-year-old Heidi Browder, the live-in girlfriend of the little girl’s father, had been beaten unconscious with a hammer.
In his closing arguments, Assistant State’s Attorney Greg Sams noted that a photo of the raped 8-year-old on a table next to Browder’s bed had been left splattered with blood from the hammer blows to Browder’s face and head.
But Public Defender Eun Yoon noted that after the crime, Happ himself seemed to come out of a trance-like state and took responsibility for his actions. According to testimony, he dressed the wounds he had inflicted on the dog and phoned 911, urging them to send an ambulance quickly because his friend was bleeding from the head. When police arrived, he told them, “I think you need to arrest me.”
Invited for a night
Browder herself took the witness stand. She said Happ had once been her sister’s boyfriend. She said that on March 6, she agreed to let him spend the night in the townhouse with her and her boyfriend’s four children because Happ had had an argument with the woman he lived with.
Browder said she and Happ generally got along well. But she recalled getting an odd premonition “that something was going to go terribly wrong” as she climbed the stairs to go to bed at about 10 p.m., leaving him on the living-room couch.
The children’s father — her boyfriend — was out of town that night on a business trip.
After going to sleep, Browder said, she can remember nothing until she woke up in a hospital a week later. She said the more than 25 hammer wounds she suffered have left her with scars all over her chin and face, plus a limp, trouble recalling words and trouble with short-term memory.
One officer said that as he was evacuating the 8-year-old from the gory scene, telling her to keep her eyes shut, she whispered into his ear, “Can I tell you a secret?” She then whispered that Happ had touched her private parts and that he had shown her Browder’s bloody body, threatening to do the same thing to her sister if she told anybody what he had done.
Hull said he received at least 300 pages of medical records related to Happ’s treatments for mental illness. These began when Happ was 8 years old and were compounded by a drug-abuse problem after he reached his teen years. They included 25 admissions for in-patient treatment at Elgin-area hospitals. But the judge said that in picking the high sentence, he was more moved by the horror of Happ’s threat to hurt the 8-year-old’s sister if she didn’t cooperate.
Hull also noted that in 2005, Happ had been convicted of burglarizing his own adoptive parents’ home. The parents did not testify in his defense, although two former neighbors of the family testified that as a boy, Dan seemed friendly and harmless when he took medicines prescribed for him.
A friend of Happ’s adoptive mother revealed that according to her, Happ’s birth mother had used cocaine while she was pregnant with him.
Happ’s ex-live-in-girlfriend, Danielle Johnston, said that “if he stayed on his medication on a steady basis, not just for a week or two, he would be fine,” but he would often stop taking his pills. She said that at the time of the crime, she had stopped having sex with him because she was suffering from a back injury.
She said she and Happ have a 4-year-old son together who suffers from a hereditary eye disease that could make him go blind.