Grim-faced jurors -- some with furrowed brows, others with hands over their mouths -- viewed grisly autopsy photographs Tuesday as the prosecution concluded its case against 22-year-old Matthew Nellessen, charged with first-degree murder in the death of his father, George Nellessen.
Nellessen cried and his shoulders shook as he viewed images of his father's injuries, which prosecutors say Matthew Nellessen caused when he struck the 55-year-old widower in the head with a baseball bat and stabbed him in the neck with a kitchen knife while he was bound to a chair with duct tape and electrical cords in the family room of the family's Arlington Heights home.
The photographs accompanied the testimony of forensic pathologist Dr. Steven White, the assistant Cook County medical examiner who conducted George Nellessen's autopsy after his death on the April 12, 2011.
The victim arrived at the medical examiner's with duct tape wrapped around his wrists, feet and upper body and his head covered in a white plastic bag, which when removed revealed George Nellessen's face covered in a dish towel with duct tape wrapped around his eyes, White testified.
Blunt force injuries to Nellessen's right skull were consistent with being struck with a bat, White said, noting the victim had skull fractures "too numerous too count" as well as bleeding around the brain. Death from those injuries could have occurred within several minutes or up to two hours later, White testified.
However, George Nellessen also suffered four knife wounds to his neck, including one to his jugular vein that "would in and of itself have been fatal" within minutes, said White, who declared George Nellessen's death a homicide resulting from multiple stab and blunt force injuries.
Earlier, forensic scientist Christine Prejean matched DNA from blood found at the scene to George and Matthew Nellessen, supporting co-defendant Marlon Green's claim that Matthew Nellessen cut his hand while he was stabbing his father. Prosecutors say Matthew Nellessen enlisted Green, a self-confessed Chicago gang member, to help rob George Nellessen of money Matthew believed was his. Green testified he saw Nellessen kill his father after they and co-defendant Armon Braden tied George up and forced him to divulge financial account information and sign a $100,000 check payable to Matthew Nellessen. All three men, along with Armon's younger brother Azari Braden, face first-degree murder, armed robbery and other charges. In exchange for his testimony against Nellessen, Green agreed to plead guilty to armed robbery and accept an 18-year prison sentence. Charges against the others are pending.
If jurors convict him of first-degree murder and find the crime indicative of wanton cruelty, Nellessen could face up to life in prison.
Testimony continues Wednesday in Rolling Meadows, with jury deliberations likely beginning in the afternoon.