Public defender: Elgin man accused of murdering, dismembering his mother acted in self-defense

  • Brian Peck

    Brian Peck

Updated 1/25/2022 7:18 PM

Attorneys for an Elgin man charged with murdering and dismembering his mother said Tuesday that Brian Peck acted in self-defense after his mother became violent following an argument in her bedroom on Oct. 25, 2017.

According to Assistant Cook County Public Defender Rachel Baker, 76-year-old Gail Peck was "not acting like herself" that night when she argued with her son and came at him with a "military grade survival knife."


Prosecutors disagree. They say Peck, 59, murdered and dismembered his mother and then disposed of her remains in Chicago's Lincoln Park Lagoon, where a fisherman hooked a duffel bag containing a human arm on Oct. 27. A Chicago Police Department marine unit subsequently recovered a suitcase with additional human remains, Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Shilpa Patel said during opening arguments Tuesday in Rolling Meadows.

According to Patel, Peck withdrew $500 from his mother's account about 5 a.m. Oct. 25, 2017, the same day he bought paver bricks, tarp and other materials. The following day, Peck purchased a duffel bag and a five-piece luggage set, she said, adding the duffel bag found by the fisherman and the suitcase recovered by police looked like the same items Peck purchased.

Peck's attorneys agree he and his mother argued and the argument escalated, but they say he was not the aggressor and had no weapon.

"He'll tell you that after this happened he panicked," Baker said, adding that a medical examiner found evidence of alcohol and pain medication in Gail Peck's body.

"You're going to see pictures that are hard to look at," said Baker, but "what's relevant is what happened in that bedroom."

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Sherry Orrico, who described Gail Peck as a "second mom," testified the older woman had undergone several back surgeries and shoulder surgery and had battled breast cancer. Orrico was helping renovate the kitchen in Gail Peck's Elgin townhouse, which the former Oak Brook resident moved into two months earlier.

Orrico said she last spoke to Gail the evening of Oct. 24, 2017, when Gail and Brian were having dinner at a Schaumburg restaurant. After texting Gail on Oct. 27 about stopping by to get her opinion on kitchen hardware, Orrico received a call from Gail's phone. On the line was Brian, who Orrico said lived with his mother off and on over the years.

Brian told her his mother wasn't feeling well, Orrico said. Later that day, Elgin police called to tell her Gail Peck was missing.

Elgin police officer Michael Hutton said he arrived at the Peck home at 3:39 p.m. Oct. 27 in response to a missing-person report. Jurors watched Hutton's body camera recording, during which Brian Peck told the officer his mom took her dog Doris for a walk on a nearby trail about 1:30 p.m.

Doris returned, but Gail didn't, Peck told the officer.

On the video, Peck states repeatedly that his mother had spinal stenosis and other ailments.


"In my mind she's getting a little forgetful," Peck says on the video. "She's on a lot of medication."

On the video, Hutton tells Peck 20 to 30 officers are searching the area on foot and in vehicles. They're also using drones and a helicopter to help locate Gail, Hutton says. "Stay positive," he adds.

Testimony continues Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.

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