Defense: Communication key in trial of deaf Elk Grove Village man
The charges against Timothy Zondlo, an Elk Grove Village man charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Oct. 8, 2018, death of his wife, are rooted in communication and miscommunication, Assistant Cook County Public Defender Caroline Glennon said Tuesday during opening statements in Zondlo's trial.
"Our client is deaf," said Glennon pointing out to physically distanced jurors that four American Sign Language interpreters have been enlisted to interpret for Zondlo, 55, "because the stakes for him are incredibly high."
Authorities say Karyn Zondlo, 46, died from blunt-force trauma, which Glennon attributed to an accident that occurred Oct. 7 in the couple's garage. According to Glennon, Timothy Zondlo was putting storage bins onto a shelf when one fell. To protect her, he pushed his wife, who was also deaf, out of the way, causing her to strike her head against a wall, she said. That caused a brain bleed, and Karyn Zondlo later collapsed in the couple's home and died the next day, said Glennon.
She said her client's statements after his wife's death reflected emerging details about the accident.
Prosecutors paint a different picture. They say Zondlo's reckless behavior caused his wife's death and that inconsistencies in his account point to his guilt. During his opening statement, Assistant State's Attorney Robert Rodemeyer praised the couple's sons, then 15 and 11, who he said "found the courage to reveal the truth about what happened and the lie they were directed to tell."
John Zondlo, 18 -- who learned ASL from his parents and frequently interpreted for them -- testified the family attended church on Oct. 7, 2018, after which he and his father dropped off donations to the Salvation Army. Upon returning home, the teen said, he was reading at the table when he heard a loud noise from the single-car garage where his mother and father were. When his parents entered the home, John Zondlo testified, he saw blood on his mother's mouth. He said his father directed his mother to get a cup of water. Using a stool to access a kitchen cabinet, she retrieved a glass instead of a cup, he said.
"Dad grabbed her, said it was the wrong one," John Zondlo testified. "He grabbed her and pulled her down."
Then, at his father's behest, his mother went to dust the living room shelves but couldn't find the dustcloth, John Zondlo said.
"That's when my dad pushed her into the living room," he said.
Peeking into the room, John Zondlo saw his mom on the floor and his dad beside her, he testified. Timothy Zondlo instructed his son to call 911 but not mention what he saw, John said.
"I was afraid," John said. He added that about a month later, after he and his father argued, his father pushed him and said, "You'll end up like your mom."
A few days later, he related that incident to a neighbor who called police, John Zondlo said.
During cross examination, the teen admitted he had arguments with his dad where they got "in each other's faces."
Testimony continues Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.