Jacob Nodarse seemed increasingly worried but not delusional in the weeks before he shot and killed three members of a Darien family, according to testimony Thursday at the murder trial of co-defendant Johnny Borizov.
"He said something to the effect people were after him," testified Tom Masson, a former co-worker of Nodarse's at Laurel BMW of Westmont.
Masson said Nodarse, a mechanic, hadn't worked there for nearly a year when he stopped by in late February 2010, about a week before Jeffrey and Lori Kramer and their 20-year-old son, Mike, were repeatedly shot in their home.
Nodarse was speaking with a group of former co-workers when someone asked why anyone would be looking for him, Masson told jurors.
"He said it was over a custody battle," Masson said. "He said he felt like he was being followed. He thought his phone was being tapped."
Masson described Nodarse as a "laid-back, outgoing guy" and said he never gave the impression he'd lost touch with reality. "He looked tired, drained," Masson said.
Borizov, 31, of Willow Springs, is accused of conning Nodarse into the murders during a bitter child-custody dispute between Borizov and Jeffrey and Lori Kramer's daughter, Angela.
Nodarse testified last week that he believed Borizov had entangled him in an underground criminal enterprise and that Nodarse and his own family would be slain if he didn't kill the Kramers.
Nodarse's younger sister, Linnea Nodarse, said her brother in late 2009 privately expressed fears about being involved in a custody battle.
"He said there was bad blood between the two," she said. "I said, 'All custody disputes are never good.' He said, 'Nea, this one's really bad.'"
She said her brother called later in February 2010 and was "very upset." He told her to delete her Facebook and MySpace profiles because "I have people who are angry with me, and they might hurt you," she testified.
Jurors also heard from Derek Janssen, who worked with Jacob Nodarse at Bill Jacobs BMW in Naperville. Jansson said Nodarse began talking about "mobsters" in early 2010 and was "increasingly worried" about the safety of his sister and family.
"He said they had dirty cops. They were pretty much in control," Janssen said.
Asked by prosecutors if Nodarse ever seemed to hear voices or see things that weren't there, Janssen testified, "Not in any way."
Nodarse, 26, formerly of Countryside, pleaded guilty but mentally ill to murder and awaits sentencing. His state of mind around the time of the slayings has come under fire by the defense, which says he acted alone in a "fog" of mental illness and drug abuse.