Trial to begin for Arlington Heights man charged in dad's murder
George Nellessen was worried about his son Matthew.
He worried in 2009, when Matthew was sentenced to 15 days in Cook County jail for marijuana possession. He worried when Matthew was convicted of residential burglary that same year and sentenced to probation. He worried the following year when Matthew violated his probation twice and was ordered into the jail's drug rehabilitation program.
But by 2011, worry turned to fear that his then-19-year-old son would one day kill him.
That's what prosecutors will likely tell jurors as Matthew Nellessen goes on trial this week on charges that he duct-taped his widowed father to a chair, beat him and stabbed him to death three years ago in the Arlington Heights home they shared.
Nellessen has pleaded innocent. A gag order prevents his attorney, Cook County Assistant Public Defender Daniel Naranjo, from commenting on the defense strategy. But there has been no indication that Nellessen intends to argue self-defense or insanity when the trial begins Tuesday in Rolling Meadows.
Days before his death, prosecutors say 55-year-old machinist George Nellessen confided his fears about his son to friends and colleagues. Around that same time, court records show an individual who prosecutors say was Matthew Nellessen was having conversations of his own on Facebook with someone they identified as a high school friend.
"Would u ever blast a family member?" reads a printout of an April 6, 2011 conversation between Nellessen and the friend.
Expressing shock and disbelief, the other man wrote: "There is only one answer to that. No ... and really you will always be numero uno as the suspect," to which the writer identified as Nellessen responded, "cuz I live here, but nothing would ever lead to me afterward."
"Have fun in the pen," writes the other man, accusing the writer identified as Nellessen of being a marijuana addict with no self-control.
Six days later, George Nellessen was dead. And after two more days, Matthew Nellessen was in custody, having led police on a car chase through Palatine, Hoffman Estates, Barrington Hills and East Dundee.
Jurors won't hear about the Facebook conversation. Cook County Judge Martin Agran barred prosecutors from introducing testimony about the online chat. However, court records indicate jurors likely will hear from Marlon Green, 23, a jailhouse pal of Matthew Nellessen, who along with two others is also accused in George Nellessen's death.
Prosecutors say Matthew Nellessen recruited Green to help him rob his father.
They say greed and anger motivated Matthew Nellessen, who they say killed his father after George refused to give Matthew money he felt he deserved.
During Nellessen's 2011 bond hearing, authorities gave their version of what happened next, based on videotaped statements given by the three Chicago men.
After Nellessen suggested a gun would make it easier to overpower his father, Green contacted Armon Braden, 23, of Chicago, who agreed to the robbery and supplied a pellet gun, prosecutors said. Armon Braden arranged for his younger brother Azari, 22, to drive the men to Nellessen's home in Arlington Heights in exchange for gas money and a pair of diamond earrings, authorities said.
All three, like Nellessen, have pleaded innocent to charges of first-degree murder, home invasion, armed robbery and aggravated kidnapping. If convicted of the most serious charge they face up to 60 years in prison, more if jurors find their actions to be brutal, heinous and "indicative of wanton cruelty."
Prosecutors say Armon Braden, Green and Nellessen entered the Arlington Heights home and waited for George Nellessen to return from his job at Rexam Inc. in Buffalo Grove. In the meantime, they searched the house for financial records in an attempt to access George Nellessen's bank account.
After George Nellessen arrived home, Braden and Matthew Nellessen duct-taped him to a chair and ordered him to give them access to his funds, prosecutors said. George Nellessen complied, but prosecutors say he pleaded with his son not to take his retirement money. They say Matthew Nellessen took about $800 from his father's wallet, some of which he distributed to Braden and Green.
Prosecutors say Matthew Nellessen forced his father to sign a check for $100,000, which police recovered from the car Matthew Nellessen was driving when he was taken into custody following the chase. It is expected to be among evidence introduced at trial.
When George threatened to call police, Nellessen stuffed a rag into his father's mouth and duct-taped his eyes and nose, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Maria McCarthy said during Nellessen's bond hearing.
Then, "while his father sat blindfolded, gagged and helpless, Matthew Nellessen hit him five times with a baseball bat," said McCarthy, who is also the lead prosecutor on the case. Realizing the victim was still alive, Nellessen retrieved a knife from the kitchen and stabbed his father in the neck, McCarthy said during the bond hearing.
The men left, said McCarthy. Armon Braden returned to Chicago with his brother, who prosecutors acknowledge never entered the Nellessen house. Nellessen and Green drove George Nellessen's car to Chicago's South Side where Nellessen attempted to cash the $100,000 check and withdrew money from his father's account at several South Side ATMs, prosecutors said.
Surveillance videos, likely to be shown in the trial, track Nellessen's movements between several gas stations, a drugstore, a currency exchange and a Chicago motel where prosecutors say he stayed after the murder.
Nellessen returned to the family home the following afternoon, according to prosecutors' account. The next morning, a former girlfriend of George Nellessen's showed up at his home after receiving a call from George's employer, who was concerned about George's absence.
When the woman asked Matthew Nellessen how George was, he replied, "You will know right away," McCarthy said. Seeing George Nellessen's body, the woman fled and called police while Matthew Nellessen left in his father's car, prosecutors said.
A Schaumburg police officer spotted the car near Harper College in Palatine and tried to make a traffic stop, according to court records, but Nellessen drove off. Police gave chase at speeds of 45 to 50 mph, according to court records, before a blown tire on Nellessen's car ended the chase in East Dundee and he was taken into custody.
Since then, Nellessen has been held without bond in Cook County jail, along with Green, according to Cook County Sheriff's records. Armon Braden is being held on $2 million bond. Azari Braden, whose bond was reduced from $500,000 to $20,000 in September 2012, remains free on bail. No trial dates have been set for Green or the Bradens.