They never had a chance.
Prosecutors revealed disturbing details Sunday about the unimaginable violence that befell a Darien family jolted awake last week by a merciless gunman who stalked them in their home before killing three.
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At the time, Johnny Borizov was about 25 miles away, gambling at a Joliet riverboat.
Still, the 28-year-old Willow Springs man is accused of authoring the murderous plan after nagging friend Jacob Nodarse to exact revenge on his behalf against Borizov's ex-girlfriend, with whom he had a custody case involving their 13-month-old son, and her family.
DuPage Associate Judge Terence Sheen ordered both men held without bond Sunday after hearing the grisly details during their first court appearance since charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy. Borizov also faces murder solicitation charges.
Prosecutors have not alleged Borizov paid Nodarse, but they said the 23-year-old Countryside man provided a detailed videotaped confession in which he implicates his friend. Borizov, who smiled slightly at the packed courtroom gallery, maintains his innocence.
"We stand behind Johnny," his parents said in a family statement. "We love him and will support him and are secure in his innocence."
Neither man has a violent history. They return to court March 29.
Borizov pestered Nodarse for weeks before the two hatched final details in a Feb. 25 meeting, prosecutor Jeffrey Muntz alleged. He said Nodarse, who lived in an apartment building owned by Borizov's uncle, bought a gun that same day and quit his job at a suburban car dealership.
In court, Muntz repeated what he said was Nodarse's account of the March 2 violence that killed Jeffrey and Lori Kramer, and their 20-year-old son, Michael, after they were ambushed in their home on Kilkenny Drive:
Minutes before 3 a.m., Nodarse smashed through a window with a hammer and began firing. He first saw Michael, asleep on a couch with his girlfriend. Nodarse fired several shots, but wasn't sure if he struck them.
He next opened fire on Jeffrey Kramer, 50, as the homeowner came down a staircase after the commotion stirred him from bed. His 48-year-old wife, Lori, followed, not far behind. As Nodarse repeatedly shot her, he noticed Michael's 17-year-old girlfriend escaping.
Nodarse headed for the kitchen, where he shot Michael as the young man tried to grab a knife. He fired a final bullet into each of his victims' heads.
Nodarse searched for his main target: Angela Kramer. The 25-year-old escaped death by hiding in an upstairs closet, while dialing 911 on her cellular phone.
"Angela told the dispatcher she heard about 10 gunshots and someone walking around the home," Muntz said.
Her older brother, Anthony, 30, was climbing out a basement window when officers arrived. Michael's girlfriend pounded on neighbors' doors for help. The three survivors could not identify the gunman, Muntz said.
Nodarse fled to his car, parked one block away, and headed straight for Florida. It was about 36 hours later that police arrested him there. Nodarse led detectives to a trash bin behind a restaurant in Terre Haute, Ind., where the gun and his clothes were recovered, Muntz said. He said the hammer was left behind in the Kramer home.
Meanwhile, police had Borizov under arrest, without charges, since five hours after the slayings, when he voluntarily went in for questioning. Borizov was gambling at Joliet's Empress riverboat from 10:30 p.m. May 1 to 3:40 a.m. May 2 with his older brother, Boris, who police also questioned. He is not accused of any wrongdoing. Johnny Borizov's alibi is supported by video surveillance footage and credit card receipts.
Still, authorities were suspicious.
Muntz said Nodarse called Borizov on a prepaid cellular phone after the killings, saying in a message: "This is Jake. I am still driving. I can't say where I am. I think I am being followed."
Also, after Nodarse returned to Illinois, Borizov is accused of making "certain admissions" to him as the two were in nearby cells at the Darien police station. Muntz said police recorded the statements, but he did not elaborate what was said.
As for motive, Muntz said, Borizov was locked in a "heated custody battle" with Angela, and witnesses report he has a "strong dislike for the Kramer family."
Borizov's attorney, Marc Wolfe, said authorities are prosecuting an innocent man based solely on the words of Nodarse, whom Wolfe described as mentally unstable.
His law partner, Natalie Stec, also represents Borizov in the custody case - which she said was not heated. In fact, Angela agreed to share custody of their 13-month-old son, Nicholas, for whom Borizov signed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. They lived together for one year before their split.
Angela Kramer filed a sealed order of protection against Borizov after the shootings, but Wolfe noted any bad behavior or threats she alleges her ex-boyfriend made would have taken place before the crime, at a time when she admits in custody documents that it's in their son's best interest that they share custody and parental duties.
"I don't see any proof here whatsoever," Wolfe said. "These are just allegations and, frankly, very shaky allegations."
Nodarse's attorney, Randy Rueckert, added: "I just kind of have to shake my head over what's going on here."
A joint funeral for the Kramer victims begins at 11 a.m. Monday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Darien.