Daniel Olaska now faces up to natural life in prison after being found guilty of felony first-degree murder for the slaying of Shaun Wild in the early morning hours of Feb. 4, 2012, in a Naperville bar.
A DuPage County jury deliberated for about five hours Wednesday before finding Olaska guilty of Wild's murder and of unlawful use of a weapon. Olaska was acquitted on charges of attempted first-degree murder in the stabbings of Willie Hayes and Rafael Castenada.
"This was a senseless act of violence, with terribly tragic consequences," DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said immediately after the verdict. "This crime was completely avoidable, had the defendant not carried a knife into a bar."
Olaska's lead defense attorney, Ernest DiBenedetto, said he believes there is a "good chance an appeal would be granted."
"We're disappointed in this verdict, but we're going to keep working," DiBenedetto said outside the courtroom. "We're going to get together our motions and appeal, but I need time to digest it. We're going to ply away and see where it takes us."
Several jurors declined to comment after the verdict, as did Olaska's father, Tim Olaska. "Maybe later," he said.
Wild's family, many members of which have traveled from Brown Deer, Wisconsin, for the trial, praised the jury.
"There was a lot of deliberation that had to be done, and they did it professionally and they came up with a verdict that was right and just," said Wild's father, Bruce Wild. "Today became about Shaun Wild for the first time in about three years, and we're really happy and proud that they came to that verdict."
Prosecutors, during closing arguments Wednesday, described Olaska as a "ticking time bomb" filled with rage after being rejected by a woman at Frankies Blue Room on Feb. 4, 2012, and he directed his rage at several people in his path until he ultimately exploded on Hayes, Wild and eventually Castenada.
Prosecutors say he stabbed Hayes in the chest with the 3½-inch blade of a folding knife at 12:46 a.m. during a brief but heated altercation in a booth at the bar.
Wild -- a 2011 North Central College graduate and second-grade teacher in Naperville -- was stabbed just below his elbow and through his heart when he tried to grab Olaska after Olaska first stabbed Hayes.
Olaska then stabbed and injured bouncer Rafael Castenada as bar staff members attempted to hold him for police, prosecutors said.
Hayes testified during the trial that he did not recall why or how he was in the booth with Olaska.
A Naperville police officer, however, testified that Hayes told him days after the attack that he was brought to the booth to confront Olaska, who Hayes was told was making fun of his shirt. Hayes then made fun of Olaska for "drinking beer out of a wineglass" before being stabbed in the chest.
"This case is about much more than a tight shirt and drinking beer from a wineglass. (Olaska's) motives ran much deeper that night," Assistant State's Attorney Demetri Demopoulos told jurors during his closing argument Wednesday. "The defendant has blood on his hands because of his rage."
Olaska testified Tuesday he arrived at the bar after 9 p.m. that night and quickly took a liking to a girl named Sarah. They danced and had a few drinks, but ultimately she told him she wasn't interested and they parted ways.
Olaska called her "pretty" and said he wished he'd gotten her number. But he said he never got angry or jealous about the situation, despite the fact Sarah continued to dance with other guys just a few feet away.
Demopoulos, however, said Olaska stared at the woman as she danced and at 12:19 a.m. threatened a man she was dancing with by showing him his knife at the bar. When the man apologized for "dancing with his girl," Demopoulos said Olaska flashed his knife and said, "It will be taken care of."
DiBenedetto told jurors they will never see bar security footage of Olaska threatening the man because it never happened.
At 12:34 a.m., Demopoulos said Olaska lashed out at another woman, who was conversing with friends at a nearby table, with a stream of profanities. The argument seemed brief and random and Olaska returned to his booth near the dance floor.
Bar security footage shows Hayes arrive at Olaska's booth at 12:39 a.m.
"Hayes, testimony has shown, was drinking that night and the evidence was he had a blood alcohol level of .20, but Willie Hayes was at a bar doing what 200 other people were doing, having a good time and enjoying the night," Demopoulos said. "He didn't sign up for what the defendant was about to do."
About 24 seconds after stabbing Hayes, Olaska stabbed Wild and was grabbed from behind by Castenada.
Olaska was briefly detained by bar security, but video footage showed him attempting to leave the bar before police caught him about to walk out onto Chicago Avenue.
DiBenedetto, however, argued it was Olaska who was thrust into the situation at 12:39 a.m. when Hayes, whom he did not know, arrived in his booth.
He said it was Hayes who twice stood up and lunged at Olaska, despite Hayes' friends attempts to calm Hayes down and remove him from the booth.
"(Hayes) told you he was having a good time and hanging out with friends. But there has been no mention of why this man would stop what he's doing to go visit someone he did not know," DiBenedetto said.
After the second time Hayes stood and went toward Olaska, DiBenedetto said, "The defendant was fearful. He had a split-second to make a decision and that's what he did. He never asked for all of this."
Olaska's next court appearance, for filing of any post-trial motions, is scheduled for April 9.