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updated: 10/25/2011 6:06 PM

Glendale Heights murder suspect: Dad 'didn't want to be a burden'

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  • George M. Panos

      George M. Panos

 

A Glendale Heights man accused of suffocating his father with a pillow said he did it because the ailing, elderly man "didn't want to be a burden anymore," according to a recording played in court Tuesday.

But attorneys for murder suspect George Panos contended the confession was false -- and that no medical evidence would back it up.

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Panos is charged with first-degree murder in the January 2009 death of his 78-year-old father, George Panos Sr. The victim's official cause of death was homicide by suffocation, but a medical examiner acknowledged as Panos' trial started Tuesday that he based the finding partly on the defendant's admission of guilt.

"If I had no information about the defendant's statement," Dr. James Filkins said, he likely would have attributed the victim's death to natural causes.

Authorities responded to the Panos home on the 1600 block of Paul Avenue shortly before 1 a.m. Jan. 25, 2009, after the defendant reported his father had died in his sleep.

The investigation quickly centered on the victim's son after several people came forward saying he offered them $50 at a party just hours earlier to suffocate the victim with a pillow, prosecutors said.

"He talked to them about how no one would know," Assistant State's Attorney Bernie Murray told jurors.

One of the witnesses reportedly solicited later wore a wire as he visited Panos in a police interview room. There, the defendant said his father had asked to be killed.

"He didn't want to be a burden anymore," Panos said on the recording. "This is what he wanted."

Panos went on to say, "I'm going to prison for a very long time -- probably the rest of my life."

Assistant Public Defender Kristen Nevdal said Panos made the statements after hours of interrogation by police, who she said told him he murdered his father for either love or money.

She said police also allowed Panos, who was drunk at the time, to continue drinking whiskey early on as they investigated.

"They put their blinders on and made the evidence fit the story they wanted," she said. "Finally, he agreed. He relented."

Filkins said an autopsy showed the elder Panos had heart disease and emphysema, and that breathing would have been difficult for him under any circumstance.

Filkins said he found no signs of trauma about the victim's head, but that would not necessarily rule out homicide if the elderly man was smothered with something soft, such as a pillow.

Panos, 47, has a criminal history dating back more than 25 years and including charges of domestic battery, drug possession, public indecency and drunken driving. In 2007, he petitioned a judge for early prison release so he could care for his father, a "man I don't really like" but nonetheless wanted to help, he wrote in the petition.

Panos faces charges of murder and solicitation of murder. Judge George Bakalis is presiding over his trial, which is expected to last through the week.

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