Rapoport's Grandfather Testifies in Court
Hershel Rapoport, 88, described the murder he witnessed in his West Wilmette home on Christmas Day.
Eighty-eight-year old Hershel Rapoport sat attentively in the witness stand Thursday. He was testifying during a preliminary hearing for the murder trial of his grandson, Anthony Rapoport, who is accused of killing Nancee Rapoport. Nancee is Anthony’s aunt and Hershel’s daughter-in-law.
The dark-grey haired man strained at times to hear the questions from attorneys. Anthony sat at a table along the left side of the courtroom, donning wet hair, glasses and light green prison garb and listened quietly to his grandfather’s account of what happened in their West Wilmette home on Christmas Day. Hershel explained how he was standing nearby when Anthony allegedly beat Nancee with a baseball bat after an argument, and spoke about Nancee’s drug use as well as Anthony’s mental health problems.
Hershel had been upstairs with his wife, Celeste, when he heard Nancee and Anthony arguing loudly. Nancee had been the aggressor in the argument over a missing cell phone, which lasted roughly five minutes, Hershel testified.
"She was screaming, and had been upset about the ordeal," Hershel told the courts Thursday. After hearing them arguing, he came down the stairs, Hershel said. He stretched out his arms to estimate the distance between him and the dispute.
“I don’t know where the bat came from, he found it and struck her twice," Hershel said, "She fell immediately."
“I got petrified and I ran out of the house to look for Ken [Rapoport] and Cindy,” Hershel said.
Kenny, Hershel’s son and Nancee’s estranged husband, had been living in Glenview with his first wife, Cindy. Kenny and Cindy, who’ve rekindled their relationship, according to Hershel, were present at Tuesday’s hearing.
Nancee died Dec. 26 in Evanston hospital due to the head injuries she sustained. “Her death was the result of severe cerebral and cranial injuries because of the result of two blows to the back of the head,” said Detective Michael Robinson, who works for the Wilmette Police Department’s investigative unit. Robinson also testified during the hearing.
“It was such a heartbreaking experience,” Hershel said “I haven’t been the same since — I’m more despondent and sad.”
Earlier that Saturday, the day of the murder, Hershel had appeared in court with his wife for Anthony’s bond hearing. Wilmette police arrested and held Anthony overnight on Christmas Eve when they discovered an outstanding warrant for his arrest on an unrelated charge after responding to a domestic dispute between him and Nancee. Anthony had missed a Nov. 22 court date on assault and battery charges from an October incident at Skokie Hospital. Hershel said the notice of the hearing had been mailed to the wrong address, which was why Anthony missed his court date.
“There was an outstanding warrant,” Hershel said, “I explained the mix up in addresses with getting the [court] notice, and the judge exonerated him.”
Following the court appearance, Hershel and Celeste went to their synagogue. Meanwhile, Anthony left to have breakfast with Cindy and Kenny. When Hershel and his wife returned home around 1 p.m., only Nancee was present. Nancee started arguing with Hershel about a “mix up with the cell phones,” Hershel said. “She wanted $80,” he added. After telling Nancee he wouldn’t give her money for a new phone, Hershel went upstairs to his bedroom.
Anthony’s Public Defender Jim Mullenix, asked Hershel if Kenny had entered the home that afternoon and told Nancee that she was going to be “evicted” from the 3115 Hill Lane residence. Hershel said he didn’t remember that happening.
Mullenix also asked Hershel if he remembered seeing a knife in Nancee’s hand. While Hershel testified that he does not remember wearing his eye glasses during the incident, he assured the court that he did not see any weapon in Nancee’s hands.
Anthony had set a knife near Nancee's body to make it appear as if she had threatened him, according to Assistant State's Attorney Robert Heilingoetter.
Hershel also told the court more about Nancee’s background.
Nancee's use of drugs was “tremendous," according to Hershel, who added that it was “to the point that she walked very wobbly.”
“She had a sad childhood,” Hershel said, adding that “she was a jovial person.” During his testimony, Hershel said that Nancee used both "legitimate" and "illegitimate" drugs, listing morphine and dilaudid, another opiate, as examples.
“She would go in and out of the hospitals a lot,” Hershel said. He was unsure of any physical or mental health issues Nancee had.
Hershel also testified that Anthony was on medication at the time of the murder, though Hershel could not remember what kind.
“He’s had a history of psychiatric problems,” Hershel said of Anthony. “He’s been to Chester, Pontiac, Lutheran General, Evanston Hospital, Loretto and McNeal.”
Hershel and Celeste have since been staying on the Northside of Chicago with their son Chucky, who is Anthony’s father, Kenny told reporters Monday.
Assistant State’s Attorney Catherine Crowley told reporters after leaving the courtroom that getting Hershel on the record at a preliminary hearing, though not standard, was necessary.
“Should there be any problems down the road, we’ll still have this testimony,” Crowley said. "The man is elderly."
A toxicology report from Nancee’s autopsy is still pending, according to Robinson. Arraignment has been set for Jan. 27 at 9:30 a.m. for Anthony.
Stay tuned to Patch for more updates on the Rapoport murder case.