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updated: 3/13/2013 6:02 PM

Algonquin teen guilty but mentally ill in dad's death

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  • David Szalonek

      David Szalonek

 
 

An Algonquin teen was sentenced to 18 years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty but mentally ill to second-degree murder in his father's death.

David W. Szalonek, 19, of the 1400 block of Westbourne Parkway, shot his father, Brian, in the head with a 20-gauge shotgun on Feb. 8, 2010. That followed a two-hour argument over the younger Szalonek being banned from using a laptop computer to access his Facebook account, prosecutors said, The teen also said his father hit him a couple of times during the argument, prosecutors said.

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"This made the defendant very, very angry," said Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Pam Monaco.

Szalonek, who was 16 at the time, later went into his dad's bedroom with a loaded shotgun he had used in the past to hunt.

The father got up to run into the bathroom, but tripped and fell to the floor. As Brian Szalonek got up, his son shot him in the right side of the head, dropped the gun next to his body and ran to a nearby friend's house and confessed to the killing, Monaco said.

Szalonek's brother came home that night and found his father's body in a pool of blood in the bedroom.

David Szalonek, who has Asperger's syndrome, had been hospitalized in 2009 for depression but his parents could not agree on a medication for him, prosecutors said.

In weeks before the shooting, he wrote "help me" in a classmate's notebook at Jacobs High School and posted cryptic messages on Facebook saying he was "on a highway to hell," Monaco said.

A day before the murder, an anonymous caller told school officials that Szalonek may have been suicidal.

After his arrest, a psychiatrist found Szalonek fit to stand trial but also said his mental illness significantly contributed to the murder, Monaco said.

Szalonek also told the doctor he was sexually assaulted by a family member when he was 12 and was the target of physical and emotional abuse, Monaco said.

"He felt very detached, especially from his father and (two) siblings," Monaco said.

Kane County Judge James Hallock accepted the plea Wednesday in which Szalonek appeared in an orange jail jumpsuit, his head shaved, and looking heavier than the 150 pounds he was listed as weighing when arrested three years ago.

Under state law, Szalonek will serve half of the 18-year sentence. He also will receive credit for more than three years in jail while the case was pending, meaning he could be released from prison in about six years or less.

Szalonek initially was charged with first-degree murder and could have faced a much longer prison term.

First-degree murder carries a 20- to 60-year prison sentence, of which the defendant must serve 100 percent. If prosecutors proved that Szalonek fired the gun, it would have added 25 more years to the sentence, meaning Szalonek could have been sent to prison for a minimum of 45 years.

Defense attorney Brian Telander credited prosecutors for being "immensely fair and reasonable" in their evaluation of the case.

Telander said state officials must provide psychiatric care and counseling for Szalonek when he initially is transferred prison. "He will be getting help," Telander said.

At Telander's request, the judge also allowed Szalonek a contact visit with his mother. "In her words, she hasn't hugged her son in three years," Telander said.

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