In an affluent suburban Chicago mansion, 15-year-old Billy Rouse murdered his mother and father in their master bedroom. Fifteen years later, after squandering his $1 million inheritance, he was convicted of their murders.
The Rouse family had long, established roots in Libertyville, Illinois, an affluent suburb of Chicago. Bruce Rouse, 44, often spoke of his family that had settled in the area in the 1880s and were prominent in business and social circles.
In 1957, at the age of 21, Bruce inherited his father’s gas station and within a few years had acquired a chain of gas stations, had invested in real estate, a Ready-Mix-concrete business and a partnership in a cable television station. He met and fell in love with Darlene and they were married after she graduated from High School in 1959. Almost immediately Darlene became pregnant and gave birth to her first son, Kurt, when she was just 18. Within a few years two more children followed, daughter Robin and another son, William, called Billy.
With the success of Bruce’s business, the family moved to a 13-room mansionand it seemed they were living the “American Dream.” However, financial success came at a very high price and meant Bruce was spending more and more time away from home. Darlene struggled to raise three children almost single-handedly and by the time the boys reached their teens they were drinking, using drugs and had meagre respect for authority at home or at school.
By 1980 both boys were extremely troublesome but it was 15-year-old Billy who seemed the more disturbed. He had frequent outbursts of rage, was expelled from school after going on a vandalism spree and setting off the school fire alarm. His use of alcohol and drugs escalated. Twenty-year-old Kurt was also causing havoc in the Rouse household, was barred from the main house and went to live in separate guest quarters at the rear of the residence.
On June 5, 1980 Bruce left for work bringing Billy with him to help in theinstallation of a car spray painting booth at one of the gas stations. That eveningBruce went to a Rotary Club meeting and Billy returned home where he proceeded todrink and use hashish.
Darlene had spent the evening with friends for dinner and playing bridge. When she got home she got into an altercation with Billy about his alcohol and drug useand threatened to send him to a military school. When Bruce arrived home, aswas his usual behavior, he chose not to become involved in the argument. Kurt was in the guest quarters with a girlfriend and Robin was in her bedroom. The home settled down for the night.
The next morning, at 8:30 a.m. Robin was surprised that her father was not up and ready to leave for work as usual. She went to her parents’ bedroom and was horrified to find them, lifeless, under a bed sheet. It was a ghastly scene: the top of Darlene’s head had been shot off and Bruce’s lower jaw was shattered. A hysterical Robin called 911 and then rushed to wake her brother, Billy. Within minutes police arrived at the home and were met by Robin and Billy. They went to the rear of the home to wake Kurt.
All three children told detectives that they had heard nothing during the night as there had been a thunder storm which must have muffled the gunshots. The police were immediately suspicious of the siblings. In distress, Robin told a detective that one of her brothers was responsible. She didn’t say which one.
The crime scene was horrific. The killer had entered the master bedroom and shotDarlene with a 16-gauge shotgun, killing her instantly. Bruce was then shot in the lower face at point blank range. Apparently, as he was still showing signs of life, the killer then bashed his head with the butt of the gun and finished by stabbing him through the heart with a kitchen knife. The shotgun and knife were never recovered.
Detectives had very strong opinions that one of the children, or all three, wereinvolved but were unable to produce enough evidence to bring charges. Wealthyrelatives formed a protective cordon of lawyers around the children and all threerefused to appear before a grand jury or attend the coroner’s inquest. The motivecould most certainly have been financial as, between Darlene and Bruce, there wereassets of around $2 million. However, without concrete evidence, or aconfession, the police were unable to link the crime to any of the children
The Children Move On
Kurt, Robin and Billy split up and went to live with relatives in different states. In1983 tragedy struck once again when 20-year-old Robin was killed in an unrelated car accident.
The boys inherited their parent’s estate. Kurt married and moved to California. Billy went to live in Key West, Florida, where he continued his drug use, squandered his share of the estate, married, divorced and was almost homeless. He had spent six months in jail in Florida for his involvement in a stabbing and in October 1995 was again arrested on suspicion of attempted bank robbery.
The police, in Florida, aware of Billy’s background and the suspicion surroundingthe deaths of his parents, notified the police in Lake County of his arrest. Detectivesimmediately flew to Florida to question Billy in the faint hope that he would beremorseful and finally talk about his parents’ murders. They videotaped the interviewand were both shocked and pleased when Billy described, in brutal detail, the murderof his parents in 1980 when he was 15 years old, after using alcohol, marijuana andpsychedelic mushrooms. Billy Rouse was arrested, escorted back to Lake County, Illinois, and charged with the murder of his parents.
The trial began in August 1996 and David Brodsky, for the defense, objected to theuse of the videotaped confession. Judge Victoria A. Rossetti ruled that the tapeadmissible. The defense tried to paint a picture of the Rouse home as a place poisoned by infidelity, domestic violence and substance abuse. Thedefense also tried to point to Kurt Rouse, the defendant’s brother, as being the killer.
The prosecution’s case was based mainly on the taped confession and Billy washeard, clearly, describing how he was covered with his parents’ blood and brainmatter. “The f--- I had to deal with then was gone” he said. The court was aghast.
Billy Rouse did not take the witness stand in his own defense and satmotionless during the two-week trial. The jury of eight women and four men tookeight hours deliberating and again viewed the taped confession before reaching averdict of guilty.
On October 5, 1996, Judge Rosetti opened the sentencing procedure bysaying she felt “disgusted” that the law, at the time of the crime, did not allow her tosentence Billy Rouse to life and passed two consecutive 40-year sentences. She closed her comments by saying, “That is the injustice that I have to live with.
They gave you life and brought you into this world… they gave you everyopportunity for a future. You did the most hatefully shocking thing when you tookthat shotgun and, at close range, shot your mother who brought you into this world…and then shot your father. You not only took their lives, but you took your own.”
The sentence was the maximum allowed under the law because harsher punishmentfor juvenile offenders was not enacted until shortly after the murders in 1980.
An emotionless Billy Rouse did not speak at his sentencing. He could be eligible forparole in 2035. He is incarcerated in the Pontiac Correctional Centre, Pontiac, Illinois.