WHEATON — Prosecutors painted Johnny Borizov as a master manipulator and violent individual this week as opening statements were delivered in the city of Darien's high-profile murder trial.
Borizov walked into the DuPage County courtroom on Tuesday in handcuffs, dressed in a light-colored button-up shirt and slacks. As he was seated, the handcuffs were removed. The 32-year-old Willow Springs man appeared calm as he looked between jurors and attorneys, occasionally scribbling notes onto a pad.
Assistant DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Ruggiero argued that Borizov used a mob mentality to convince his friend, 26-year-old Jacob Nodarse of Countryside, to kill Lori, Jeffrey and Michael Kramer of Darien in March 2010. Ruggiero alleged Borizov claimed to be part of a mob, and that if Nodarse were to join the "special" group, he'd have to kill people.
"This defendant tried to portray himself as some sort of mob boss and he would talk to Jacob by manipulating him," Ruggiero said during his opening statement.
Borizov is charged with murder, solicitation of murder and conspiracy in the slayings of his former girlfriend's parents and brother. Angela Kramer and Borizov were locked in a child custody battle at the time over their toddler son.
Meanwhile, defense attorney Paul DeLuca looked to make Nodarse the subject of blame, who has pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the murders. He said Nodarse was troubled by several events before the crime, and additionally suffered from alcohol and drug abuse.
Prosecutors had argued Borizov took advantage of Nodarse's mental state and used it to his advantage when allegedly convincing him to murder the Kramers. A masked Nodarse allegedly had broken into the Kramers' home and shot them to death on March 2, 2010, while Angela Kramer hid in a closet and called 911.
That recording was played in court on Tuesday.
"(Nodarse) was in a world of depression, hopelessness and had thoughts of suicide before Johnny Borizov got there," DeLuca said. "This case is about Jacob Nodarse. ... It's about his descent into his own unreal world."
The first witness to take the stand this week was Christina Palumbo, who dated Michael Kramer starting in March of 2009. At the time, Palumbo described Kramer's relationship with Nodarse as "friendly," as the two would regularly socialize.
"Whenever Jake was upset, Michael would go and sit and listen to his problems," Palumbo said.
Eventually, there was a falling out between the two, who both used drugs. Palumbo said when she saw Nodarse, he usually was depressed or abusing drugs and alcohol.
Angela Kramer also testified Tuesday, sharing a story about her father, Jeff, who did not press charges when Borizov one day allegedly pulled a knife on him during an argument about Angela's car.
Borizov also displayed his anger again at a birthday party for his son, Angela said, when her grandmother tried to hold the boy. In another incident, he allegedly threw Angela's belongings out of their former home in Countryside.
On Wednesday, Angela's surviving brother, Anthony Kramer, testified, along with Darien Police Sgt. Steve Liss and Edward Sokasits, a forensic detective with the DuPage County Sheriff's Office. Photographs and video of the crime scene were shared with the courtroom.
Jurors are expected to hear from about 90 witnesses during the trial, which may last up to four weeks.
Check back with mysuburbanlife.com for continued coverage of this case.