A mentally ill man who claims he was tricked into killing three members of a Darien family was "straightforward" and "consistent" when he told the story to a forensic psychologist, the psychologist said.
Dr. John Murray said he ultimately concluded that Jacob Nodarse was sane but facing "increasing intimidation" by co-defendant Johnny Borizov before the March 2010 slayings.
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"Jacob Nodarse, in my judgment, was very intimidated by Mr. Borizov -- and fearful," Murray testified Tuesday, as Borizov's murder trial entered its third week.
Murray, who interviewed Nodarse for 21 hours over nine days, said the confessed killer believed he had "no alternative" but to fatally shoot Jeffrey and Lori Kramer and their 20-year-old son Michael because of Borizov's alleged representations.
He said Nodarse described how he was convinced that Borizov led a small crew of criminals who wanted Nodarse to "demonstrate his loyalty" by killing someone.
At the same time, Murray said, Nodarse told him Borizov repeatedly indicated Michael Kramer was hiring Latin Kings gang members to kill Nodarse and his family to prevent Nodarse from testifying as a witness for Borizov in a child-custody case between Borizov and Kramer's older sister.
The murder plot unfolded as Nodarse, who experienced anxiety and depression from an early age, grappled with the untimely deaths of two friends and the loss of a girlfriend who cheated on him.
Those issues "compounded or made worse the depression he was already suffering," Murray said, adding Nodarse had a history of abusing drugs and alcohol.
By the time he fled to Florida after the murders, Nodarse was manic and experiencing possible hallucinations or delusions, according to Murray.
Murray acknowledged on cross-examination by the defense that Nodarse exaggerated his symptoms in a later mental evaluation but said he viewed it as a "cry for help" rather than an act to avoid responsibility.
"He wanted to make sure I knew he was very distressed," Murray testified.
Jurors on Tuesday also heard from Borizov's mother, Christina, who described a conversation with Nodarse outside her family's Willow Springs home the week before the murders.
She said Nodarse told her he was being threatened by Michael Kramer and asked for a Costco card to "stock up on things" before he left for a trip to Florida.
"He looked very scared," she said.
Nodarse, the key witness against Johnny Borizov, has pleaded guilty but mentally ill to one count of murder and is awaiting sentencing. In exchange for his plea and testimony at Borizov's trial, DuPage County prosecutors agreed to seek 45 years to life in prison for the 26-year-old, who would have faced mandatory life if convicted of two or more murders.
The trial resumes Wednesday.