DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert B. Berlin announced today that the Second District Appellate Court of Illinois has affirmed the conviction of Grant Van Muren, 26, who was convicted of Second Degree Murder in the 2014 death of fifty-five-year-old Charles Clarke of Naperville. On September 16, 2014, following a bench trial, Judge Brian Telander found Muren guilty of Second Degree Murder, Residential Arson and Aggravated Arson. On March 2, 2017, Judge Telander sentenced Muren, to twenty years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
On Wednesday, January 22, 2014, Naperville police officers responded to a call at Clarke’s home. Upon their arrival, officers smelled natural gas and located the deceased body of Clarke in the bedroom area. At some point in time prior to that day, Clarke and Muren were in the home together as Muren had recently moved in to the residence with Clarke. At some point in time while both men were home, a physical altercation ensued resulting in Muren striking Clarke over the head with a small table and then strangling him. Muren then turned on the gas oven and left the door open allowing gas to fill the apartment. Muren then put his rental agreement papers in the toaster and turned on the toaster. He then gathered his belongings and fled the premises. The following day Muren was apprehended by police officers after he was pulled over for a traffic violation.
In his appeal, Muren claimed the State failed to disprove his self-defense claim and that the State failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on both his Arson and Aggravated Arson charges. Muren also claimed a due process violation, trial court error concerning admissible evidence and that the trial court ignored his request to represent himself.
In its affirmation, the Appellate Court noted that the “defendant armed himself by picking up a table. He then approached the victim from behind and struck him” concluding that Muren’s actions and inactions, or “other steps” he could have taken such as leaving the residence or calling the police, “has not convinced us that his decision to strike the victim from behind with a table was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.” Regarding Muren’s claims that the trial court ignored his request to represent himself the Appellate Court noted that “as we read his statement about firing his attorney, it is at least as consistent with a request for a new counsel as it is a request for self-representation. In short, we find this argument wholly unpersuasive.” Additionally, the Appellate Court found that Muren “has not convinced us that he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of either arson count” and that “the trial court did not abuse its discretion” concerning the evidence in question. The Appellate Court also found that Muren’s arguments regarding the alleged due process violation were “unpersuasive.”
“I would like to thank the Appellate Court for their extremely thorough and detailed analysis of this case and for seeing through Mr. Muren’s attempt to avoid responsibility for his actions,” Berlin said. “The Appellate Court’s decision affirms our contention and the Trial Court’s finding that Grant Muren is the man responsible for the murder of Charles Clarke. With the final chapter of this terrible case now written, it is my sincerest hope that Charles’ family and friends will be able to move on with their lives knowing that Grant Muren will pay a significant price for the murder of Charles Clarke.”
Justice Hudson delivered the judgment of the Court with Justices Birkett and McLaren concurring.