More than three years ago, Jacob Nodarse broke into a home in an upscale Darien neighborhood armed with a .40-caliber Glock firearm and killed three members of a family.
On Tuesday night, a DuPage County jury ruled that Johnny Borizov, one of Nodarse's friends, was the one who orchestrated the brutal crime.
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Jurors deliberated for less than 2½ hours before convicting Borizov of first-degree murder and solicitation of murder in the March 2, 2010, shootings of Jeffrey and Lori Kramer and their 20-year-old son, Mike.
"The defendant, Johnny Borizov, thought only of himself on March 2, 2010, when he committed these horrific acts of violence," DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said. "Today's verdict is a message that he will be held responsible for his conduct."
The conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. Berlin called it a sentence that Borizov "justly deserves."
Borizov, 31, of Willow Springs showed little emotion as the verdict was read. His attorneys later said that Borizov was "prepared for the possibility" of a conviction.
Meanwhile, members of the Kramer family wept before some of them applauded the verdict. William Svatos, Lori Kramer's father, said he "broke down crying" because he was relieved.
"My granddaughter and her future husband and my family can rest in peace," Svatos said. "They don't have to worry about nothing."
During the lengthy trial, which was the first proceeding in the Chicago area to be covered with video and still cameras, prosecutors said Nodarse was enlisted to carry out the slayings by Borizov, who was entangled in a bitter child-custody battle with Angela Kramer, daughter of Jeffrey and Lori Kramer.
The killings happened less than two months after Angela Kramer sought legal custody of her and Borizov's then-13-month-old son. She testified during the trial that Borizov had become increasingly controlling and was isolating their child from her family members.
Assistant State's Attorney Bernie Murray said during his closing argument Tuesday that Borizov "hated" Angela and didn't want her and her family to get custody of the child.
"This case is about his motive, his plan and his manipulation of Jacob Nodarse," Murray said.
Murray said Borizov encouraged Nodarse to kill members of the Kramer family, specifically Angela Kramer and her brother, by convincing Nodarse that the Kramers would kill him and members of his own family. Borizov told Nodarse he would kill other people while Nodarse was in Darien, according to Murray
"This defendant created a false alibi and had Jacob Nodarse commit this horrific crime," Murray said.
Nodarse opened fire about 3 a.m. after shattering a window to get inside the home. Jeffrey, Lori and Mike Kramer were shot to death after being roused from sleep.
Angela Kramer survived by hiding in a closet and calling 911 while her older brother and Mike Kramer's girlfriend managed to escape -- one of them through a window.
After the shooting, Nodarse fled to his parents' home in Florida, where authorities apprehended him the next day.
In September 2011, Nodarse pleaded guilty but mentally ill to first-degree murder in a plea deal that required him to testify during Borizov's trial.
Borizov's attorneys tried to argue that there wasn't any solid evidence to prove that Borizov was involved. They said the statements by Nodarse were unreliable because he has a history of drug abuse and mental illness. At the time of the killings, Borizov was videotaped gambling at a Joliet casino. But Murray said the fact that Borizov was at a casino in the middle of the night was "part of the scheme he put together to ensure he gets away with this."
"This is not an alibi," Murray said. "It's proof of the plan that he concocted with Jacob Nodarse."
Murray said Nodarse's mental issues had nothing to do with what happened.
"This isn't a fog of mental illness," he said. "This is a fog of Johnny Borizov's bag of B.S."
Kevin James, who served as the jury foreman, said evidence presented during the trial backed up Nodarse's version of what happened. That evidence included cell tower records and a video of a conversation that Nodarse and Borizov had at the Darien police station.
"The basis of the story and all that really matters is did Johnny Borizov tell him (Nodarse) to do these things, specifically to kill and murder these people?" James said. "Yes, we all believed that."
In exchange for his guilty plea, Nodarse will face a prison sentence of between 45 years to natural life in prison.