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Trial begins for man charged in murder of 73-year-old woman

Raymond Harris is on trial for first-degree murder and robbery. | Chicago Police photo

Lorraine Reed said “yes” when her high school sweetheart, Raymond Harris, presented her with a pair of rings and asked her to marry him in the fall of 2011. The couple finally stood before a judge Monday.

Harris is accused of murdering a 73-year-old woman and stealing the rings he gave Reed, who took the stand as a witness for the prosecution.

Reed testified that she went to a South Side shop in October 2011, where Harris picked up two rings he had dropped off to be engraved: a wedding band with Reed’s name, and the engagement ring with her birthdate. A month later, she turned them over to Chicago Police homicide detectives who arrived at her Carpentersville home, asking questions about Harris.

“I took the rings off my fingers” and gave them to detectives, Reed said, her voice barely rising above a whisper during about 20 minutes on the stand.

Virginia Perillo wears her wedding rings at her son’s wedding. | Provided photo

A few weeks earlier, prosecutors allege, Harris bludgeoned Rush Medical Center nurse Virginia Perillo in the garage of her Bridgeport home, making off with the rings and her handbag. Police found Perillo in a pool of blood in her garage. The mother of three died days later without regaining consciousness.

The rings and another item of jewelry, a watch bearing Harris’ DNA that was found at the crime scene, will figure prominently in the case, defense lawyer Shelley Blair said in her opening statement at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

But Blair said police would not be able to prove the rings were the same ones Perillo had been given by her husband when the couple married in the Philippines in the early 1970s, nor that DNA evidence on a wristwatch left at the crime scene would conclusively link Harris to the murder.

Harris “was 15 miles south of Mrs. Perillo’s garage. He was with his family,” when Perillo was murdered, Blair said.

The state’s first witness, Perillo’s son, Mark, had little doubt the rings he saw in police evidence envelopes on Monday were the ones that belonged to his mother.

“How many times did you see your mother wearing those rings?” First Assistant State’s Attorney Daniel Kirk asked Mark Perillo.

“Countless times,” Mark Perillo said. “My whole life she wore them.”

The trial was set to resume at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday before Judge Charles Burns.