Addison man guilty in double murders

Gary Schuning hung his head and sobbed Thursday as a DuPage County jury convicted him of stabbing his mother and an escort to death inside his Addison home.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated about four hours before finding the 28-year-old guilty of first-degree murder in the Feb. 26, 2006, slayings of Doris Pagliaro and Kristi Hoenig.

Schuning was convicted of stabbing his victims dozens of times in an early-morning rampage that began with an argument with his mother and ended with Schuning hiring three escorts — the last of whom wouldn't survive.

“It was a brutal, heinous, senseless murder,” State's Attorney Robert Berlin said.

In addition to convicting Schuning of murder, the jury found his method of killing “indicative of wanton cruelty.” The victims' friends and family members cried and embraced outside court but declined to comment.

Schuning claimed at trial to have no memory of the slayings, but prosecutors reminded jurors in closing arguments that he confessed “not once, not twice, but three times” in recorded interviews with Addison police.

“Why would he falsely lie to police and say he committed the murders of his mother and Kristi Hoenig?” prosecutor Alex McGimpsey asked. “No explanation at all, no rational explanation. But the evidence corroborates all three of those statements, and nothing this defendant could say is going to change the truth.”

The murders happened early on a Sunday after Schuning returned home from clubbing all night in Chicago. Prosecutors said the violence erupted as Pagliaro, 40, argued with her son about him using her credit card on escorts.

Schuning, who said he had been drinking and using cocaine, was accused of stabbing his mother 40 times and slicing her throat after binding her hands and shoving her down a flight of stairs. Afterward, he dragged her body to her bedroom, cloaked it with a comforter, and called 18 escort services, prosecutors said.

In the ensuing hours, two escorts visited Schuning separately but did not see his mother's body. It wasn't until 21-year-old Hoenig, of Chicago, arrived and saw something upsetting that Schuning turned a knife on her as she called her pimp for help.

Hoenig was stabbed 19 times in the head, back, chest and neck, prosecutors said. Police arrived moments later to find her body on the floor next to a bed where Schuning was lying, holding a knife. Pagliaro's body was found in another bedroom, bound and gagged with a kitchen knife sticking out of her chest.

Prosecutors said a “mountain of evidence,” including witness testimony and physical evidence, proved Schuning guilty. But the defense contended he was nearly the third victim of an unidentified group of killers, possibly including some escorts.

Defense attorney Neil Levine noted that police did not find Schuning's fingerprints on the knife in his mother's chest, and said other physical evidence also didn't match prosecutors' theory of how the slayings unfolded.

“Somebody else was there,” Levine said. “Gary can't be the killer. It's impossible.”

Schuning testified earlier this week that he couldn't deny murdering both women because he didn't remember that morning. He said he also couldn't remember confessing later, but suggested investigators led him along.

Schuning faces a mandatory sentence of natural life in prison because he has been convicted of two murders. His next court appearance is June 30 in front of Judge John Kinsella, who presided over the two-week jury trial.

Murder: Schuning faces mandatory life sentence