80 years for convicted sex offender in Kristy Wesselman murder

After 30 years on the run in the wake of raping and murdering 15-year-old Kristy Wesselman, Michael Jones will take his last breaths in an Illinois prison.

DuPage County Judge George Bakalis on Tuesday sentenced Jones, 64, to 80 years in prison, just days after the Champaign man pleaded guilty to murdering the Glen Ellyn-area girl in 1985.

"With this sentence the defendant will spend approximately 38 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections," Bakalis said. "At the age of 64, this is essentially a life sentence. Based on his conduct, the defendant has earned each and every day of his sentence."

Jones did not speak at the sentencing hearing.

But Sandra Wesselman, Kristy's mom, read an emotional victim's impact statement.

"Kristy was murdered on July 21, 1985. We were denied our right to see what the final results of her journey would have been," she said. "Kristy did not have the chance to go to her brothers' or sister's weddings. She never knew the joy of getting to know her nieces and nephews.

"Our pain from the loss of Kristy will never be completely healed. My children and I have built lives that are, to all appearances, normal. We are survivors.

"The pain of having a child murdered is life-shattering. Bill and Greg lost their little sister; Susan, her big sister; and I lost a part of me. This is but a small portion of her 15 years of life. What she would have become will forever be an unfinished book."

With the sentencing behind her, Sandra Wesselman said she will return home to a new normal.

"What an amazing day," she said following the hearing. "I can go home today and try to be a real person, whatever that is. It's a joyful day and a very sad day. We will always miss Kristy."

Jones has been held in the DuPage County jail without bail since Sept. 21, 2015.

He was charged with multiple counts each of first-degree murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault. He was linked to the slaying in September 2015 through a DNA sample he was required to give after pleading guilty that summer to aggravated domestic battery in Champaign County.

His DNA matched samples from the 1985 murder scene that had been filed in a national database in 2000.

"That obviously was the linchpin in the case," DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said. "DNA evidence that was not available in 1985 but is available today is truly an incredible tool and it was the key to this case."

Prosecutors said Jones, who was from Schiller Park but living in Champaign at the time, stabbed Kristy eight times and sexually assaulted her in broad daylight on a path near Butterfield Road and Route 53 that led to her home in the Valley View subdivision near Glen Ellyn.

Kristy's body was found in a pile of leaves near a half-eaten candy bar and a soda bottle by a sheriff's deputy about 11 a.m. the following day.

An extensive investigation yielded few results and the case eventually went cold.

"This defendant was nowhere in the police report. He was not from around here and he was never one of the suspects that was looked at. And there were many, many suspects whose DNA was compared," Berlin said. "Unfortunately, there's some questions in this case that we may never have the answers to and (why Jones was near Glen Ellyn that day) is one of them. We'll never know why he was here on that particular day or what he was doing here."

At the time of the murder, Jones had been out of prison for about two years after being convicted of using his car to knock a woman off her bicycle on the northwest side of Chicago in 1977 before forcing her at gunpoint to his parent's home, where he sexually assaulted her.

The bicyclist, Geri Michael, now 67, expressed frustration Tuesday that Jones never served the 10 to 20 years to which he was sentenced in her case.

"Had he served at least the 10 years, we wouldn't be here today for this," Michael said after the hearing. "I'm glad to see he's going in (prison) and will never, ever, see the light of day as we know it again."

Prosecutors said Jones sexually assaulted another woman in 1976 but was never convicted.

That woman, Judith Van Kirk, also spoke Tuesday after the sentencing.

"I was Michael Jones' first victim," Van Kirk said. "Michael Jones was a very violent man. He didn't care about you or anything about you. He took away our innocence but he did not take our love away, that we have inside. Michael Jones got what he deserved. I wish it was a little bit sooner."

Berlin said investigators aren't sure if Jones victimized others.

"There have been investigators looking at other unsolved cases, but I really can't say more than that," he said.

Jones may have gone unpunished in Kristy's murder, but on Sept. 10, 2015, the DuPage County Crime Laboratory informed detectives from the sheriff's office that there was a DNA match through the Combined DNA Index System that identified a specific person as the contributor of the DNA profile obtained from the sexual assault kit performed during Kristy's autopsy.

Further investigation by the sheriff's Cold Case Unit, with assistance from the state's attorney's office, led to Jones.

On Sept. 18, 2015, authorities traveled to Champaign, took Jones into custody and returned him to DuPage County to face the charges.

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Michael Jones did not speak Tuesday in DuPage County court, where he was sentenced to 80 years in prison for the 1985 murder of 15-year-old Kristy Wesselman near Glen Ellyn. Antonio Perez/Pool/Chicago Tribune
Michael Jones
Kristy Wesselman
  "It's a joyful day and a very sad day," Sandra Wesselman said Tuesday after her daughter Kristy's killer was sentenced to 80 years in prison. "We will always miss Kristy." Daniel White/
  "Unfortunately, there's some questions in this case that we may never have the answers to and (why Michael Jones was near Glen Ellyn that day) is one of them," DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said after Kristy Wesselman's killer was sentenced to 80 years in prison. Daniel White/
  DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin is flanked by Bob Wesselman, Kristy's father, and Geri Michael, who was assaulted by Michael Jones in 1977. Daniel White/
  Geri Michael speaks during a news conference following the sentencing of Michael Jones for the murder of Kristy Wesselman. "I'm glad to see he's going in (prison) and will never, ever, see the light of day as we know it again," she said. Daniel White/
  Judith Van Kirk was sexually assaulted by Michael Jones in 1976 and believes she was his first victim. "He took away our innocence," she said, "but he did not take our love away, that we have inside." Daniel White/
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