'I just tried to get her to stop stabbing me,' son in Elgin murder, dismemberment case testifies

  • Brian Peck

    Brian Peck

Updated 1/31/2022 11:30 PM

The Elgin man charged with killing and dismembering his mother testified he acted in self-defense after the 76-year-old came at him with a military-grade survival knife upon becoming annoyed with him for playing a Jimi Hendrix song on repeat.

"I didn't kill her -- she died during a struggle," said Peck, 59, a debt collection service owner charged with first-degree murder in the death of Gail Peck in 2017.


Partial remains of Gail Peck, a breast cancer survivor who loved dogs and the theater, were discovered in Chicago's Lincoln Park Lagoon several days after prosecutors say her son murdered her in her Elgin townhouse.

Brian Peck -- who lived on and off with his mother first in Oak Brook and later in Elgin, where she moved two months before her death -- testified Gail Peck had health problems including spinal stenosis, for which she underwent spinal fusion surgery in 2015. He said he took care of her physically and financially, claiming she lost her life savings in the 2008 stock market crash.

On the witness stand for more than 4½ hours, Peck said his mother called him to her room about 3:30 a.m. Oct. 25, 2017, complaining about the music and demanding he split a $180,000 benefit he claimed he was to receive for serving as her caregiver for years.

He said when he refused, she grabbed the knife and attempted to stab him, preventing him from exiting the room. A struggle ensued during which, Peck testified, he "swept her leg," causing her to fall.

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On the floor, she waved the knife back and forth, stabbing at his legs, he said.

He testified he attempted to get her to stop by first pushing her face to the floor "in a stomping motion" and then by putting his foot on her throat, "thinking she'd stop the stabbing motion."

Unable to find her pulse, Peck began CPR "in an inadequate attempt to revive her," he testified.

"I didn't do anything to hurt my mom. I just tried to get her to stop stabbing me," the visibly upset Peck told jurors.

At 6 feet tall, Peck said he weighed about 250 pounds at the time. His mother stood 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed about 140, authorities said.

Describing himself as terrified and panic-stricken, Peck said did not call police because he did not trust them. He testified his distrust stemmed from a 2016 arrest on charges of domestic battery against his mother. He stated he pleaded guilty to the crime only because authorities threatened a felony enhancement if he did not.

"I had no choice," he told prosecutor Shilpa Patel on cross examination. "Even though I was innocent I was forced to take a plea (in 2016)."


After his mother died, Peck testified, "I decided I would have no other alternative under the circumstances ... than to dismember the body."

He told jurors he retrieved a saw from the garage, partially dismembered his mother's body, put some of her remains into black garbage bags and drove to Montrose Harbor in Chicago, where he tossed the bags containing her head and arms into Lake Michigan late on Oct. 25, 2017.

On Nov. 7, 2017, authorities say a human arm identified as Gail Peck's washed up on Montrose Beach.

Peck further testified he finished dismembering his mother's body on Oct. 26, 2017. He said he placed her torso in a suitcase from a luggage set he purchased that day and put her legs and the saw into a newly purchased duffel bag. He then dropped the pieces -- both weighted with brick pavers -- into the lagoon.

Peck admitted he lied to his mother's friend and her cleaning lady, telling them Gail was sick when they inquired about her in the days after her death. He also admitted filing a false missing person's report on Oct. 27, 2017, in which he stated his mother left to walk her dog and never returned.

"You were saying anything to get this investigation away from you," said Patel.

"Yes," Peck responded.

Questioned about withdrawals he made on his mother's accounts and purchases he made on her credit card in the days following her death, Peck said he mother gave him the credit card to use. After pointing out his name was not on the deed to Gail Peck's house, her car, her bank account or her credit card, Patel suggested Peck had financial reasons for staying with his mother.

"I had no financial problems whatsoever," said Peck, who told jurors he moved in 2010 from a penthouse in Toronto, Canada, back to the suburbs to take care of his mother.

"I made sure my mother had everything she wanted or needed and was happy to do so," said Peck.

Closing arguments will take place today in Rolling Meadows.

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