Kelli O'Laughlin's alleged killer, John L. Wilson, held without bond
State's Attorney: 'This would have qualified for the death sentence'
On the day Kelli O'Laughlin was laid to rest, her alleged killer will now face justice.
"It's very comforting and redeeming," said Christopher Kowalski of La Grange Park, as he attended Kelli's funeral this morning with his son, James. "It doesn't bring her back, but it is comforting."
A Chicago man has been charged with the murder of 14-year-old Kelli O'Laughlin, who was stabbed to death on Oct. 27 in what police suspected to be a home invasion.
John L. Wilson, 38, of Chicago has been charged with first-degree murder and residential burglary. He was ordered held without bond Friday morning at the Cook County Circuit Court in Bridgeview.
Wilson stood unfazed during the court proceedings, wearing a loose gray sweatshirt and khaki pants, a blank expression on his face.
Prosecutors revealed that the Illinois State Police Crime Laboratory matched Wilson's DNA on a red stocking cap that was tied to a rock and thrown through a dining room window in the burglary. Three witnesses who saw him in the neighborhood earlier on the day of Kelli's death later identified him in a physical lineup.
Kelli O'Laughlin was stabbed in the back, neck and chest, prosecutors said. She came home at 3:40 p.m. Oct. 27 and surprised Wilson, who then took an 8-inch-long carving knife from the kitchen and stabbed her multiple times. He then allegedly dragged her body from the family room to the kitchen, where she was found.
The knife was left next to a large pool of blood in the family room.
Prosecutors allege that Wilson then went to a 7-Eleven on Willow Springs Road off the Hinsdale Tollway Oasis, where he had contact with a Willow Springs police officer, who learned his name was John L. Wilson. A taxi was there waiting for him, and Wilson allegedly used foreign coins to help pay for his cab fare — it was not immediately known if those were the same coins taken in the O'Laughlin burglary.
The U.S. Secret Service, using cellphone technology, was able to track the defendant through his and Kelli's cellphones, which traveled in tandem in Chicago, where Wilson was apprehended on Wednesday. He had sent text messages of a "taunting and disturbing" nature within hours of the murder to Kelli's mother from Kelli's phone, prosecutors said.
Wilson has only spent three of the last 20 years outside of prison, prosecutors said. The sentence they're seeking is life in prison.
"This is a case that would definitely qualify for seeking of the death penalty. It’s a felony murder," said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. "It’s a murder that occurred during the commission of a burglary. So, yes, it is a case that qualified and it's a case in which I believe we would have sought it."
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said police followed hundreds of leads, and they're still chasing some. About 75 police officers and detectives from all over the city and suburbs worked on the case, including those from the FBI and Chicago Transit Authority.
Dart said he is unaware of prior contact with the family or how Wilson got out to Indian Head Park, and why. It may be a possibility that there are other suspects in the case, or accomplices, he said, but Wilson is thought to have been working alone.
"This isn’t ending today," Dart added. "There’s going to be leads to be worked on for quite a while."
As of yet, no ties have been made to a recent juvenile burglary ring arrest in Bolingbrook, or a burglary of a 90-year-old woman's home this week in Willowbrook.
As Wilson appeared in court, those who knew Kelli gathered to remember her Friday morning at St. John of the Cross in Western Springs.
At West 55th Street and Wolf Road, people were lined outside hand in hand. Helicopters hovered in the sky as people of all ages — even young children — paid their respects to the slain girl. They held candles and balloons, with a small group singing "Amazing Grace" by the church.
More than 1,000 spanned the few blocks on the way to the church on a beautiful sunny day with leaves blowing lightly in the wind.
Christopher Kowalski's son was in freshman classes at Lyons Township High School with Kelli. James sat next to her in gym class.
"She was always very happy, really nice," James Kowalski said. "She helped out with everything."
After finding out about Kelli's murder, James said he was shocked. But his father said that on that night, all the texts were flying among parents at LT. Initially, they didn't even know it was Kelli, but they knew someone had died.
Christopher Kowalski said he and James joined the masses Friday morning so they could show support to the O'Laughlin family.
One person attending the funeral services was holding a sign that read, "Love Is All Around." A girls' sports team huddled close among the quiet, somber crowd. Anyone who spoke, spoke low and softly.
About 700 white balloons were released, and red, pink and white roses were tossed toward the hearse as it made its way to the funeral home about 9:45 Friday morning. About six Illinois State Police officers led the motorcade on motorcycles, while more than a dozen police cars were parked at the church.
Just 1.5 miles away is where Kelli's alleged murderer was kept the last two days for questioning.
Meanwhile, at the courthouse, TV vans lined the parking lot awaiting news of Wilson's bond hearing, which was delayed for more than two hours. He allegedly had struggled with police and was rowdy and uncooperative in attending court, a source told the La Grange Suburban Life.
Wilson was freed on parole last year after a long criminal history. He had served eight years of an 11-year sentence for felony robbery of a school/place of worship when he was paroled in November 2010. He was due to serve out his sentence next year.
That conviction was his sixth since he was 17, according to Illinois Department of Corrections records.
His first came in 1991 for possession of drugs and possession of a stolen vehicle. Two years later, he was sentenced to seven years for aggravated vehicular hijacking — a Class X felony, the most serious category in Illinois short of first-degree murder — as well as another drug charge. He was convicted again for a 2001 aggravated battery charge.
Check back with mysuburbanlife.com/lagrange for more information as this story develops.
— Reporters Brian Hudson and Amber Krosel contributed to this report.