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Trial of woman charged with murder of Shaun Gayle’s girlfriend begins Tuesday

A claim that ex-Bear Shaun Gayle pushed his pregnant girlfriend weeks before her 2007 murder won’t be presented to jurors when Marni Yang stands trial for the slaying, a Lake County judge ruled Monday.

Nor will Yang’s attorneys be allowed to tell the jury that Gayle allegedly had pressured long-time girlfriend Rhoni Reuter to end two prior pregnancies, Judge Christopher Stride said.

Before Yang’s murder trial opens today with jury selection, Stride ruled on a handful of key last-minute issues — including agreeing jurors could see a picture of Reuter’s bullet-riddled unborn daughter.

Yang is charged with first gunning down the 42-year-old Reuter on Oct. 4, 2007 because she allegedly was jealous of Reuter’s relationship with Gayle.

When Reuter was shot to death in her Deerfield home, she was seven months pregnant with a child she and Gayle already had named Skylar Reyne.

Yang also had contended she also was involved in a sexual relationship with Gayle, though Gayle has denied that claim.

Defense attorneys had sought to tell jurors that Gayle purportedly was unhappy Reuter had become pregnant and that he had pressured her to end two earlier pregnancies by threatening to sue her and to take custody of the baby. Reuter also allegedly said shortly before her death that Gayle had pushed her during an argument, defense attorney William Hedrick argued.

But calling those claims “too speculative,” Stride ruled they wouldn’t be admissible during Yang’s trial — unless Gayle brings up the alleged incidents during his testimony.

Yang allegedly shot Reuter at least six times — and intentionally fired two bullets into her abdomen in an attempt to kill her unborn child, prosecutors have contended. Stride agreed to allow jurors to see an autopsy photo showing the infant had been hit twice by bullets.

Stride also again denied requests that the 43-year-old Yang, who has been jailed since her March 2009 arrest, be allowed to wear makeup during the trial and have her long, graying hair cut and dyed. Her attorneys have contended that her appearance otherwise makes her look “like a crazy woman.”

“Her appearance has declined,” said Hedrick. “She looks like a crazy woman. She does not look like anybody who Shaun Gayle would ever have a second of interest in.”

Defense attorneys said they still may try to appeal Stride’s ruling on Yang’s appearance to the Illinois Supreme Court.

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