Self-confessed Chicago gang member Marlon Green testified Thursday that while he agreed to help Matthew Nellessen rob his father, George Nellessen, he never agreed to murder the 55-year-old widower.
Matthew Nellessen was his intended victim, said Green, a key prosecution witness in the case against 22-year-old Matthew Nellessen, who is charged with first-degree murder in the April 12, 2011, death of his father.
Prosecutors say greed over money Matthew Nellessen felt George Nellessen owed him led the younger man to beat and stab his father to death in the family room of their Arlington Heights home.
Testifying during Nellessen's murder trial at the Rolling Meadows courthouse, Green, 23, said he agreed to help Matthew Nellessen get the money, but said "killing his father was never part of the plan."
Green made a deal with prosecutors to testify against Nellessen and plead guilty to armed robbery in exchange for an 18-year prison sentence. He admitted recruiting Armon Braden to help rob George Nellessen and said Braden provided a BB gun and helped Matthew Nellessen bind his father with duct tape and cords.
But Green said he and Braden hatched a second plot, to rob and kill Matthew Nellessen of whatever money he got from his father. They subsequently abandoned the plot to kill Matthew Nellessen in favor of just robbing him, reasoning that Nellessen could never report the money stolen without implicating himself in his father's murder, Green said.
Green, Braden and Matthew Nellessen were in the Nellessen's Wilshire Lane home the afternoon of April 12 when Green said he tried unsuccessfully to transfer money from George Nellessen's bank accounts over the phone. After George Nellessen returned home from his job at Rexam in Buffalo Grove, Green admitted holding him at gunpoint while Braden and Nellessen tied him to a chair. He testified the trio got the victim to divulge his user name and password which allowed them to access his financial accounts online using George's laptop. Green transferred $100,000 from the victim's home equity account into his checking account, after which the trio forced George Nellessen to sign a blank check, which Green made out to Matthew Nellessen for $100,000.
When Matthew Nellessen saw the money in his father's accounts he "went into a fit" and called George a liar, Green said.
Nellessen then removed credit and debit cards from his father's wallet along with about $800 in cash, which he divided among the three men, Green said, quoting Matthew as saying "his father never loved him and he always loved his sister more."
The trio, who wore gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints, put George's wallet and cigar; the duct tape, cords, laptop and other items into a bag preparing to leave, said Green, when Matthew Nellessen retrieved a baseball bat from the garage and returned to family room.
"Matt said. 'This is personal,'" said Green who followed Nellessen into the family room where Nellessen took several half-swings with the bat, Green said. Nellessen then struck his still-bound father four or five times in the head, Green said.
Saying "he's still alive," Nellessen stabbed George in the neck with a kitchen knife, cutting his own hand in the process, Green said. The men left. Green and Nellessen drove George's car to Chicago's South Side where they made several ATM withdrawals using George Nellessen's debit card, among other transactions.
Key prosecution witness Nancy Zimmerman, who discovered George Nellessen's body, also testified Thursday. Former high school sweethearts, the couple rekindled their romance in 2005, a year after George's wife died. They broke up several years after that, but remained friends, Zimmerman said.
She said she went to Nellessen's home early on April 14, 2011, after George's employer reported he'd been absent from work. She testified Matthew hesitated initially, then let her into the home where she saw George still bound to the chair with a bag over his head. She ran from the house crying. Outside, she asked, "Matt what did you do?"
"He said, 'I did do it,'" Zimmerman said, followed by "it wasn't me, it was that secret society The Illuminati."
Zimmerman also identified a letter she received from Nellessen a year later in which he suggested she sign an affidavit recanting her statement about his "I did it" comment. She turned the letter over to prosecutors.