Buzz saw, bags for ‘human garbage’ among tools in found in ex-cop’s alleged torture chamber
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter February 18, 2014 7:08PM
Steve Mandell (left) leaves the Dirksen Federal Building in 2005 with his attorney Jon Loevy. | Sun-Times files
Updated: February 19, 2014 2:33AM
There were two types of trash bag: regular, and heavy-duty for “human garbage.”
There were three kitchen knives; an electric buzz saw with four spare saw-blades; a meat cleaver; two hand saws; a .22 caliber pistol, with hollow point bullets; protective goggles; even a “hemostat,” a surgical clamp similar to those used by surgeons to stymie blood loss.
But that was just a small sample of the alleged torturer’s tool kit that jurors hearing former Chicago cop Steve Mandell’s macabre double murder plot trial got to see first hand Tuesday.
Two large shopping-cart sized containers parked at the back of the downtown federal court room couldn’t come close to containing all of the goodies the FBI seized from the torture chamber Mandell, 62, of Buffalo Grove, built in the 5300 block of West Devon on Chicago’s Northwest Side in late 2012.
The tool kit shown to jurors Tuesday also included police radios, pry bars, and razor blades that Mandell allegedly planned to use to torture wealthy Riverside businessman Steve Campbell into turning over 25 buildings he owned before Mandell and alleged accomplice Gary Engel killed and dismembered him.
Among the stranger items stashed near plastic wrap and cleaning products the feds say Mandell planned to use to keep Campbell’s blood off the walls: a copy of “Men’s Health” magazine, a packet of Entenmann’s donuts, a man’s swimsuit and a fedora.
If it was hard to figure how those items might be used in a torture session, a vivid imagination was not necessary to see how the other household items might be repurposed to cause pain.
Nine FBI agents who took the stand one after another Tuesday showed jurors evidence seized from the torture chamber, then highlighted sections of a transcript from a secretly filmed video of Mandell and Engel allegedly describing how they planned to use the tools.
In one, Engel — who hanged himself soon after he and Mandell were arrested — says they’ll use the reinforced contractor-grade Hefty bags for “human garbage.”
In another, Mandell asks if they’ll need the goggles if Campbell’s blood “starts flinging all over the place.”
In a third, Mandell appears to approve of the power saw, making a buzz saw sound and telling Engel, “We’re not gonna do no sawing at four in the morning with this guy.”
Campbell — the victim Mandell and Engel allegedly planned to kidnap and butcher — is expected to take the stand Wednesday.
Mandell is also accused of plotting to murder Polekatz strip club owner Tony Quaranta and his wife in a bid to take over the club in a second, related plot.
A former death row resident, he was freed from prison after a 1990 murder conviction was overturned on appeal, and won a civil case against the FBI, alleging it had framed him, although that verdict was also later overturned.
He will testify in his own defense that the plots to kill Campbell and Quaranta were simply “b.s.” that he would never have followed through with, his lawyer vowed last week.