Jacob Nodarse "thought it was a dream" when he fatally shot three members of a Darien family, he said on his second day of testimony in the Johnny Borizov trial.
"It was like a nightmare," he testified Friday. "I didn't know it was real."
Nodarse said he had visions of his younger sister being attacked as he broke into the home of Jeffrey and Lori Kramer before slaying them and their 20-year-old son, Michael.
Afterward, he drifted back and forth between a dreamlike state in which he believed the murders hadn't happened and a state of panic in which he was "freaked out" about what he'd done.
He said there were times he saw imaginary vehicles that he believed were following him as he made his escape to Florida. At other points in the drive, he was "relaxed and calm," believing it was the week earlier and "looking forward to going to the beach."
"My mind was bouncing back and forth between acknowledging what had happened and not acknowledging what had happened," Nodarse, 26, told jurors.
The shooter, who pleaded guilty but mentally ill to murder in 2011, was cross-examined for about six hours by an attorney for Borizov, who prosecutors say conned Nodarse into committing the March 2010 killings to end a bitter child-custody battle with Jeffrey and Lori Kramer's daughter, Angela.
Nodarse admitted mutilating himself and abusing drugs and alcohol throughout much of his life as he battled severe anxiety and depression.
But he denied having any vendetta against Michael Kramer -- once a close friend -- or being motivated by anything other than fear for his own family's well-being.
He insisted Borizov coached him on how to commit the murders and led him to believe that gang members or Michael Kramer would have his sister and parents killed if he didn't follow through.
"I was convinced by Mr. Borizov that if I spoke to any law enforcement authorities, my family wouldn't be safe," he said when defense attorney Richard Kling asked why Nodarse didn't go to the police during one of his more lucid moments after the killings.
Nodarse smirked and rolled his eyes occasionally during the lengthy cross-examination, as the defense tried to portray him as mentally unstable and unreliable.
At one point, he pointedly told Kling, "I don't need your help," while trying to recall a precise timeline. At another, Kling grew incredulous when Nodarse said the trial was "kind of exciting to me."
"In the sense that I've stared at a concrete wall every day for three years," Nodarse said when pressed by Kling. "I'm not saying I enjoy it, but it passes time better."
Jurors also heard from Lori Kramer's brother, William Svatos, who described two conversations in which Kramer spoke of Borizov's troubled relationship with her daughter shortly before the murders.
In one call, Svatos said, Kramer told him Borizov swore at her and said, "You and Jeff mean nothing to me." In another, Svatos said his sister warned, "This is bad."
The trial in DuPage County court resumes Tuesday.