Prosecutors: Canadian man researched death penalty, then killed Westmont woman

Updated 4/15/2011 7:48 AM
  • Demetry Smirnov

    Demetry Smirnov

  • A woman was found shot to death in the parking lot of an office complex in Oak Brook.

      A woman was found shot to death in the parking lot of an office complex in Oak Brook. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • A female victim was shot several times in the parking lot of this office complex in Oak Brook.

      A female victim was shot several times in the parking lot of this office complex in Oak Brook. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

First, the Canadian man made sure the death penalty had been abolished in Illinois. Then he bugged his victim's vehicle before tracking her down and shooting her to death. Then he turned himself in.

That's the scenario painted by prosecutors Thursday in the death of a woman slain outside her office in Oak Brook.

Bail was denied for Demetry Smirnov, 20, of Surrey, British Columbia, who is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 36-year-old Jitka Vesel late Wednesday.

DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said Smirnov shot the Westmont woman several times in the head and body as she left her office at 122 W. 22nd St. At one point during the shooting, Berlin said, Smirnov reloaded his .40-caliber handgun and kept firing.

"Clearly, it was premeditated," Berlin said, calling the fatal shooting a "gut-wrenching, senseless crime."

Prosecutors said Smirnov, who described himself in bond court as a member of the Canadian military, met Vesel through an online dating service in 2008. He later moved to the area and began a relationship with her. Though Smirnov eventually returned to Canada after Vesel was reunited with an old boyfriend, they said, he continued to call and e-mail her.

In 2009, Vesel contacted Berwyn police to report that Smirnov had threatened her. About three weeks ago, Berlin said, the defendant traveled to Seattle and bought a firearm and ammunition.

Smirnov returned to the Chicago area April 8 or 9. When he didn't find Vesel at a previous address, he searched online for her most recent address in Westmont.

Berlin said Smirnov later glued a tracking device to the bottom of the victim's car after finding it parked outside her Westmont home. He then used a GPS to track her, according to the allegations.

About 9 p.m. Wednesday, prosecutors said, Smirnov was armed and waiting for Vesel outside her Oak Brook office as she left a work function.

Police responding to a 911 call of an unconscious female arrived later to find Vesel fatally wounded in the office parking lot. Authorities collected 11 shell casings at the scene and were also reviewing surveillance footage.

Berlin said Smirnov fled but eventually called Area 3 police headquarters in Chicago and confessed to murdering Vesel. He later surrendered at the Romeoville Police Department and gave a video-recorded confession, according to prosecutors.

Berlin said that before the defendant's return to Illinois, he had researched the death penalty and learned it was recently abolished here. He said Smirnov came back to the area with a "preconceived plan to take life."

Smirnov, wearing a white jail outfit, appeared at bond call Thursday, where DuPage Judge Michael Wolfe denied bail. Smirnov told the judge he was a member of the Canadian military and an out-of-work computer technician.

Vesel worked at the Czechoslovak Society of America Fraternal Life, formerly known as the Czechoslovak Society of America in Oak Brook. Officials at the fraternal organization declined to comment.

A woman by the same name also is listed as a Czech-English translator at the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International in St. Paul, Minn. Emails and a phone message left at the organization weren't immediately returned.

"Jitka Vesel's life was taken from her, allegedly by the hands of a man she had met through an online dating service," Berlin said. "This is a gut-wrenching, senseless crime and I want the family of Jitka Vesel to know that they are in our thoughts and prayers as they go through this very difficult time in their lives."

The press office of Gov. Pat Quinn, who repealed Illinois' death penalty just last month amid widespread debate, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. If convicted, Smirnov could face up to 60 years in prison, with the possibility of a life term, Berlin's office said. He is due in court May 9.

Berlin said the last murder in Oak Brook was on Jan. 1, 2010, outside a Doubletree Hotel. That killing stemmed from a domestic dispute.