WHEATON – In Jacob Nodarse's mind, the murders he committed on March 2, 2010, were unreal.
"That's what it felt like I was in — a nightmare," Nodarse said during his testimony Friday at the DuPage County Courthouse. "My mind registered it the very way your mind would register a nightmare."
Nodarse took the stand in an orange jumpsuit as defense attorneys questioned him on everything from his traumatic childhood to his continued drug use up until the time of murdering Jeff, Lori and Michael Kramer at their Darien home in 2010.
The 26-year-old Countryside resident has pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the crimes.
Nodarse was calm on the stand, polite and tried to be specific with his answers. He often sighed, reflected on his answer before speaking, then rested his head on his hand as he answered questions from defense attorney Richard Kling.
"Are you bored?" Kling asked at one point.
"No, I'm bored a lot in jail," Nodarse responded. "This is kind of exciting for me. I'm not enjoying it, but it passes the time better."
When speaking about the murders directly, Nodarse said reality left him that day in 2010 while he was parked in a parking lot "waiting for the assigned time" before going to the Kramers' home. After that, Nodarse claims his world became a dream-like nightmare as he drove to the house.
After Nodarse committed the murders, he drove to Florida to see his sister, where she lived. Nodarse said reality came back to him while he was driving southbound on Route 41 through Indiana.
"I'm driving watching the sunrise when suddenly I feel really nervous and panicked,” he said. “I started thinking, 'What's going on?' because never once in my life did I have a dream with a sunrise and sunset."
Nodarse said he began to have flashbacks of what happened at 3 a.m. that morning when he shot and killed members of the Kramer family. He said he had a panic attack, vomited and still questioned whether it was real.
He then checked the gun he previously purchased and had on him.
"I took out the gun, I took out the clip and I saw how many rounds were fired," he said. "That's when I realized it was real."
Prosecutors allege 31-year-old Johnny Borizov of Willowbrook, whose trial began this week, orchestrated the murders of the Kramer family by manipulating Nodarse through fear tactics and manipulation. At the time of the murders, Borizov was in a bitter custody battle with Angela Kramer – daughter of the slayed Lori and Jeff – over their son, Nicholas, and a hatred for Angela's family, prosecutors said.
Borizov is accused of using mob tactics to convince Nodarse he had a crew of men working for him, cops on the inside and that Nodarse's family could be in danger if he didn't follow through with the murders.
"My initial concern when the detective questioned me was that my family wouldn't be safe,” Nodarse said in response to why he initially lied to police during questioning. "I was convinced by Mr. Borizov that if I talked to any authorities, my family wouldn't be safe."
Defense attorneys, however, are focusing the blame on Nodarse for the fatal shooting of the three Kramer family members. They claim a combination of frequent substance abuse and abuse suffered as a child contributed to his decision to commit the murders.
In court on Friday, Nodarse admitted to being abused physically and mentally as a child by his parents, frequently using drugs and alcohol, cutting himself and at one time, he contemplated suicide.
He entered a guilty plea in 2011. Borizov is charged with murder, solicitation of murder and conspiracy in the slayings of his former girlfriend's parents and brother.
Nodarse is expected to be sentenced after a verdict in the Borizov trial, which could last four weeks. He faces a minimum of 45 years in prison.
Check back with mysuburbanlife.com for continued coverage.