Family 'shocked' after conviction overturned in 41-year-old Inverness murder case
Helen Gaimari was in her 90s by the time she got the news she had waited decades for: Her daughter-in-law Jacquelyn Greco had been convicted of murdering Helen's third child, Carl Gaimari, a commodities broker who had been shot to death in the basement of his Inverness home 37 years earlier.
The long-awaited verdict came in October 2016. Two months later, a judge sentenced Greco to 30 years in prison. The day after Greco arrived at the Logan Correctional Center in January 2017 to begin her sentence, 99-year-old Helen Gaimari died.
"Mom knew," Carl's brother Michael Gaimari said. "She wanted to live until that day came about."
Family members thought the case was over. But earlier this month, an Illinois Appellate Court overturned Greco's conviction and ordered a new trial.
Oh no, thought Michael Gaimari, not again.
"We were shocked," said John Gaimari, Carl's younger brother. "We didn't think there was a snowball's chance in hell any appeal would win based on the evidence of the trial."
Prosecutors haven't indicated if they will retry Greco, now 73. A spokeswoman for Cook County State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx says the office is reviewing the court's decision to determine the next steps.
During the trial, prosecutors said two men entered the couple's home on April 30, 1979, bound Greco and three of her and Gaimari's four children and locked them in a master bedroom closet. Later that afternoon, the men, who were never identified, shot Carl Gaimari six times with his own gun after the 34-year-old returned home from the Chicago Board of Trade.
The couple's 15-year-old daughter returned to the family's Turkey Trail Road home that day to discover her mother and siblings locked in the closet. A short time later, the couple's 13-year-old daughter discovered Gaimari's body in the basement.
Prosecutors say greed motivated Greco whose marriage was described as troubled. They say she was having an affair at the time of the slaying and that she and her lover -- former Chicago police officer Sam Greco -- came up with the home invasion/murder. Within days of his death, Carl Gaimari's belongings were removed from the house, said Michael Gaimari. Within a week, Greco's lover moved in, and four months later they were married.
Sam Greco was never charged. He died last year.
For decades, the investigation went nowhere. Police would get a lead here and there, said Michael Gaimari, but it wasn't until 2012 that prosecutors say police received permission to record Greco's phone conversations. Authorities claimed Greco implicated herself during a February 2013 phone conversation with her sister, Elsie Fry. During that tearful conversation, Fry informed Greco she told prosecutors that Greco mentioned killing Gaimari two months before the murder.
"I didn't do it," Greco said during the conversation, which was played for jurors.
"I know," said Fry during the same conversation, "but you told me how it was going to be done."
Defense attorneys insisted Greco didn't want her husband killed. They pointed to the recorded conversation with Fry during which Greco said: "Your testimony is enough to put me away. You're my sister but you're a witness against me ... That's enough to put me away. Not that I killed him, but I knew."
At another point in the recording, Greco spoke of a plan to kill Gaimari, saying: "It's what I wanted to happen but I didn't want it to happen. I would never take my children's father away."
In their appeal, Greco's attorneys argued that circumstantial evidence showed the couple had attempted to reconcile and that Greco had "withdrawn from the plan to kill her husband." They said the trial court erred because the judge did not instruct jurors on the defense's theory.
Assistant Cook County Public Defender Julie Koehler said she always thought Greco's verdict would be reversed.
If prosecutors retry the case, "we pull everything out of storage. We find where witnesses are and we get ready for trial," Koehler said.
The Gaimari brothers say they have faith in the system and hope for a conviction.
"We'll be present every day, every hour," said Michael Gaimari, 78.
"We expect justice to be served," said John Gaimari, 65. "We do not expect leniency because of age, health or any other reason. Carl did not get an option. ... His future was decided by someone else without his consent."