Elgin man sentenced to 50 years for 2013 murder
An Elgin man was sentenced to 50 years in prison Monday for the March 2013 stabbing murder of his new neighbor in her townhouse on the city's near west side.
Paul A. Johnson, 36, could have received up to 100 years after being convicted this year of murdering Lisa Koziol-Ellis, a 33-year-old artist who had just moved to the Garden Quarter townhouse development.
Koziol-Ellis was stabbed 55 times with a knife and screwdriver. Authorities arrested Johnson about two weeks after the March 2, 2013, murder that put the community on edge.
"Lisa Koziol-Ellis should have been the queen of her new castle. Instead, she became a prisoner in an execution chamber (in her foyer)," said Bill Engerman, Kane County assistant state's attorney and lead prosecutor in the case. "This is an offense that scares everyone. Why? Because it was random. This happened in the sanctity of one's own home, a place where a person should feel safe."
Engerman asked Judge Susan Clancy Boles for a sentence of 75 years, pointing to the brutality of Koziol-Ellis' murder and Johnson's lengthy criminal history, which included armed robberies of three hotels, along with beating a man in a bar fight in 2012 and even burglarizing a nephew's home.
According to prosecutors, Johnson broke into Koziol-Ellis' townhouse three doors down from his to commit a burglary, but she was there.
Prosecutors said Johnson was on parole and didn't want to go back to prison, so after killing Koziol-Ellis he returned with bleach to try to clean the crime scene.
At trial, prosecutors matched bloody gymshoe print to Johnson's shoes, and tests showed Johnson's DNA was present on blood drops found on the inside of her front door.
Prosecutors also had Johnson's half brother make a secret recording of Johnson in which he swore to "turn himself in" to authorities if his half brother was arrested and charged with her murder.
At trial, Johnson claimed his half brother, who died of a drug overdose in spring 2014, killed Koziol-Ellis and he, out of "blind loyalty," helped clean the crime scene.
Koziol-Ellis' family members told the judge Monday of how her death had left a void in their lives and caused immeasurable pain.
"On that day, part of me died," said Koziol-Ellis' mother, Barbara Kasprzyk. "Life has lost its meaning. My heart has a gaping hole. ... She was murdered in the best time of her life. She was so happy to be moving into her own townhouse."
Koziol-Ellis' sister, Grace Holzinger, told of how the family was supposed to celebrate her birthday but instead mourned her death.
"Lisa comes from a very close and loving family. Our family gatherings will never be the same," Holzinger said. "Where Lisa used to sit, we now keep Lisa's picture on her plate at the table. We will never hear her laughter and never get to laugh with her again. As I go on with my life, I feel like my heart will explode from pain."
Given a chance to apologize, Johnson maintained he helped clean the crime scene after his brother killed Koziol-Ellis.
"I'm sorry I didn't react differently when my brother told me what he'd done," Johnson said. "I've done bad things, but none of them are murder. ... Please don't take away my life for something that I didn't do."
Johnson must serve the entire 50 years.
Afterward, David Holzinger, a spokesman for the family who also is Koziol-Ellis' brother-in-law, said family members hoped for a longer sentence but were pleased Johnson would not be a danger to society ever again.
"We're happy (the sentence) wasn't less. We're satisfied with what the court imposed," Holzinger said. "Life will always be different. I'm convinced our family is strong enough that we'll get through this together, go on with life and always keep Lisa in our hearts. She's still a member of our family. She's still here."