'I killed the woman I love'; Prosecutor says Barrington man admitted to shooting

  • John H. Breseman, 50, of Barrington

    John H. Breseman, 50, of Barrington

  • Christina Czuj, left, with stepdaughter Jenni Prochaska, right, and granddaughter Hailey, in a photo taken Dec. 18, 2020. Czuj, of Sleepy Hollow, was killed New Year's Day by John Breseman of Barrington, authorities allege.

    Christina Czuj, left, with stepdaughter Jenni Prochaska, right, and granddaughter Hailey, in a photo taken Dec. 18, 2020. Czuj, of Sleepy Hollow, was killed New Year's Day by John Breseman of Barrington, authorities allege. Courtesy of Jenni Prochaska

 
Updated 1/4/2021 3:48 PM

A judge ordered a 50-year-old Barrington man held without bail Sunday on a first-degree murder charge stemming from the New Year's Day slaying of a woman authorities say he was dating.

John H. Breseman is charged with fatally shooting Christina Czuj while she was a passenger in his pickup truck on the ramp from I-90 westbound to Barrington Road in South Barrington.

 

The 54-year-old Sleepy Hollow woman was found dead in the vehicle at about 1:34 a.m. Friday at Barrington and Palatine roads in Barrington Hills, where police had been called on a report of a shooting. She had suffered gunshot wounds to the back of her head and near her collarbone, authorities said.

During a bond hearing Sunday, Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Margaret Johnson said Breseman called his son after the shooting and confessed to killing Czuj, claiming that she attacked him in the vehicle and he acted in self-defense.

However, Johnson said police found no marks or bruises on Breseman's body. He later told police the shooting had occurred on the exit ramp while his truck was moving.

"Self-defense or not, I (messed) up," Breseman told police, according to Johnson's account. "I killed the woman I loved."

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A review of Breseman's cellphone revealed what appeared to be ongoing arguments between him and Czuj, Johnson said. In one email from Dec. 28, Breseman confronted Czuj about her plans to spend New Year's Eve with others.

"Maybe I'm just a jealous fool that loves you very much," he wrote in another message.

A text message from Czuj read in court stated, "Do not call me again."

Breseman's criminal history is limited to a 1993 battery case, for which he received six months of supervision, authorities said. He also owns or co-owns as many as 80 firearms, authorities said.

Defense attorney Neil Levine said Breseman has two grown adult children and owns all or a majority of a residential and commercial carpentry firm. He noted that Breseman called 911 and waited for police after the shooting, "things that guilty people tend not to do."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"This is a head scratcher ... and a head shaker," Judge John Lyke Jr. said of the case before ordering Breseman held without bail. Breseman could face between 25 years and life in prison if convicted of the murder, the judge noted.

Breseman remains held in the Cook County jail pending a scheduled court appearance Wednesday at the county courthouse in Rolling Meadows.

In the meantime, Czuj's family remembered her Sunday as a kindhearted person with a beautiful smile and laugh. She loved animals and rescued two dogs from the side of a highway, nursing them back to health, said stepdaughter Jenni Prochaska.

Prochaska said Czuj had married her father, Frank Prochaska, who died in 2018, and was still grieving his loss.

"They were each other's worlds," she said. "When he left us, he definitely took parts of her with him."

She said her stepmother was self-employed as a certified colon hydrotherapist.

"She meant everything to me, considering I have lost my biological mother and father," Prochaska said. "So she was my mother and was absolutely great with her granddaughter."

Friend Jim Campanella said he met Czuj in 1990, when she worked in the title and mortgage industry. He said he last spoke to her just days before her death.

"Tina was always a very caring, very down-to-earth person," he said. "She was a good solid person."

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