CROWN POINT — The husband of a prominent local attorney gunned down last year outside his home testified Tuesday he looked up after hearing what he now realizes was a gunshot and saw T. Edward Page say, "Stop, Bill, no!" before collapsing.
William "Bill" Landske, 84, the husband of late state Sen. Sue Landske, is standing trial this week on a charge alleging he murdered Page on Aug. 15, 2018, outside the Hobart residence Page and his husband, Kevin Swanson, shared.
An autopsy showed Page, 64, died instantly from a gunshot wound to the abdomen and three to the back. Bullets pierced both of his lungs, his heart, kidney, liver, spleen and other organs.
During Hobart police Detective Sgt. Steve Houck's testimony Tuesday afternoon, Lake County Supervisory Deputy Prosecutor Michael Toth played a videotaped statement Landske gave to police hours after the shooting in which he admitted, "I did a wrong thing. I shot a man."
Landske said in the video he became angry about tax preparation delays when he saw nearly 50 bags and several boxes of documents in Page's foyer.
He later told Houck and Capt. James Gonzales in the interview that he decided to shoot Page at the moment he put his arm around Page, who prepared the Landske family taxes for decades.
Swanson testified Landske led Page away into the yard and shot him at close range.
Jury can weigh lesser charge
Special Judge Rex Kepner granted a request by defense attorneys Scott King and Lakeisha Murdaugh to instruct jurors that if they cannot convict Landske of murder, they can find him guilty of the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter.
Toth objected, saying such an instruction required evidence showing there was a sufficient provocation causing a person to kill in a "sudden heat."
Landske was aware he would be picking up a voluminous number of documents, and just seeing the many bags was not a sufficient provocation, Toth argued.
Toth also said there was no question about whether the killing was premeditated, because the courts have ruled that the premeditation can happen in a second. In this case, it happened when Landske put his arm around Page, Toth said.
King said it was inaccurate to say Landske knew how many documents were at Page's house and argued the questions were better left to the jury to decide.
Kepner said he had been studying the issue and initially leaned against allowing jurors to consider voluntary manslaughter. He changed his mind when Landske's videotaped statement to police was entered in the record, he said.
Page's brother, Paul Page, said outside the courtroom that T. Edward Page had a tremendous sense of life.
Hundreds of people attended his funeral, including a mother who said T. Edward Page had saved her 15-year-old son's life by showing him leniency in court and mentoring him.
The Pages grew up in Highland Park, Illinois, and T. Edward Page was drawn to the Region and its politics after graduating from law school in Indiana, he said.
T. Edward Page and former Republican state Sen. Sue Landske were friends for about 20 years before her death in 2015, and they attended Republican national conventions together.
Paul Page said the Lake County prosecutor's office asked if family members would accept a plea agreement calling for Landske to admit to voluntary manslaughter.
Swanson refused, saying Landske "committed an ambush in cold-blooded murder," Paul Page said.
Swanson had been T. Edward Page's partner for more than 30 years. They married about 20 years ago in Massachusetts, and then married in Indiana five years ago, he said.
'He never charged anyone for taxes'
Swanson testified he knew Sue Landske for 20 years, but did not meet William Landske until after Sue Landske's death.
Page, who submitted his retirement as a public defender days before his death, also prepared taxes, Swanson said.*
"He never charged anyone for taxes," he said. "He felt like it was a puzzle. He enjoyed doing it."
After Sue Landske's death, Page continued to meet with William Landske at least once a year to review taxes, Swanson said. William Landske came to their home, where Swanson often welcomed him in and sent him upstairs to Page's office.
According to testimony Monday, the Landske family decided to find another tax preparer because Page had sought several extensions and they felt he wasn't moving at the pace they wanted. A meeting was arranged, and William Landske and his daughters Cheryl Lynn Boisson and Jacqueline Basilotta, both of Kansas, drove two cars to Page's Hobart home.
They took two cars because Page had warned them the number of documents they were picking up was voluminous, Boisson testified Monday.
Swanson testified he and Page met the Landskes at their front door. Boisson and Basilotta entered, but William Landske remained outside, he said.
Swanson said he heard Landske ask to speak with Page, so he took several bags from Page and urged him to talk with Landske.
Landske said, "'You think you could come here and talk to me for a minute?'" said Swanson, who recalled no anger in Landske's voice.
Swanson carried out several bags and set them down before hearing what sounded like a firecracker, he said.
He looked up and saw Page facing Landske, who had a gun in his hand. Landske was 3 or 4 feet away from Page, he said.
"My brain said, 'I gotta stop this,'" Swanson said.
Page put out his right hand and said, "Stop, Bill, no," before Landske fired several more shots, Swanson testified.
Swanson ran toward Landske, knocking him down and gaining control of the gun, he said. He ran the gun back up to his front porch, set it down and ran back to Page.
When Swanson rolled Page over onto his back, he realized his husband would not survive.
"I proceeded to stay with him and comfort him because he was dying," Swanson said.
Later, police asked him to sit next to Boisson, he said.
"I turned to Cheryl and asked if Bill was angry at (Page), and she said, 'Yes,'" Swanson said.
Boisson testified Monday she did not recall the exchange with Swanson.
'I always have a gun'
Hobart Patrolman Christopher Sipes testified he arrived and took Landske to the ground after Landske initially did not comply with an order to show his hands.
Landske was the calmest person at the crime scene, he said.
"He was upset about being handcuffed and that I dropped my knee in his back, but other than that he was calm," Sipes said.
Landske also asked Sipes repeatedly, "What happens next?" Sipes said.
During an interview with Houck and Gonzales hours after the killing, Landske admitted he shot Page because he was angry, but said he didn't bring a gun with the intention of shooting Page.
"I always have a gun. Always," he said.
He said he was not aware of any of his property being in jeopardy because of tax filing delays, and he demonstrated for the detectives how he put his arm around Page and shot him.
Houck admitted under cross-examination that a notarized letter signed by Landske ending his relationship with Page might have actually been written by Landske's son Eric "Rick" Landske. The younger Landske had been attempting to gain power of attorney over his father from his sister, according to testimony.
Houck said he never was able to speak with Eric Landske, in part because Eric Landske hired a lawyer in the wake of Page's death.
Eric Landske wasn't in the courtroom Tuesday, because the defense had considered calling him as a witness, Murdaugh said. Witnesses were not permitted in the courtroom until after delivering their testimony.
The trial will continue Wednesday morning with closing statements.
* Editor's note: This story has been updated from a previous version to correct that Page had submitted his retirement as a public defender. The Times regrets the error.