Elgin man found guilty of murdering, dismembering his 76-year-old mother
A jury found Brian Peck guilty Tuesday on murder charges for killing and dismembering his mother in her Elgin townhouse, a verdict greeted by tears and hugs among the 76-year-old woman's friends and handshakes between the Elgin police detectives who worked the 2017 case.
Jurors found Peck, 59, guilty of first-degree murder, dismembering a human body and concealing a homicide death after a seven-day trial, impassioned closing arguments and about 2½ hours of deliberations.
Peck testified Monday that he killed Gail Peck, a dog lover and avid theater fan, in self-defense about 3:30 a.m. Oct. 25, 2017. He claimed she came at him with a military-grade survival knife after becoming annoyed at him for playing loud music.
Arguing for conviction, prosecutors cited Peck's "calm, cool and collected" demeanor and his string of lies.
"Every person he talked to, he lied," Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Karen Crothers said, referencing a false missing persons report Peck filed Oct. 27, 2017, that claimed his mother failed to return to her Littleton Trail home after taking her dog for a walk.
The day Gail Peck died, Peck told his mother's friends and her cleaning lady that she was ill.
"It's only when he's confronted with evidence that he changes his story," Crothers said. "Everything he says he expects everyone to believe because he's the smartest person in the room."
Authorities say Peck stomped on his mother's head, dismembered her body and put some of her remains in garbage bags that he tossed into Lake Michigan late on the day of the killing.
On Oct. 26, 2017, Peck purchased a luggage set and duffel bag, then placed his mother's torso along with brick pavers and a red towel into a large rolling suitcase, prosecutors said. He placed other body parts, brick pavers and the saw authorities say he used to sever her limbs in the duffel bag, then threw it and the suitcase into Chicago's Lincoln Park Lagoon.
Police recovered them two days later after a fisherman hooked the duffel bag, prosecutors said.
Testifying in his own defense, Peck stated his mother became annoyed with him over his playing Jimi Hendrix music. He also said she demanded he share with her the $180,000 caregiver benefit he claimed he was to receive for taking care of her over about seven years.
Peck, who is 6 feet tall and weighed about 250 at the time, said his mother -- who was 5 feet, 4 inches tall and 140 pounds -- attempted to stab him with a knife. He said a struggle ensued, during which he "swept her leg," causing her to fall.
He testified he first put his foot on her face "in a stomping motion" and then put his foot on her throat.
An assistant Cook County medical examiner determined Gail Peck's cause of death was homicide by unspecified means. Her head and one of her arms have not been found.
Assistant Cook County Public Defender Caroline Glennon told jurors Peck loved his mother, a breast cancer survivor who had surgery for a broken arm in 2013 and underwent spinal fusion surgery in 2015.
Glennon said her killing was not intentional and that Peck lied because he panicked. He feared the police would not believe Gail Peck died accidentally and "he didn't want to be prosecuted for something he never intended to do," she said.
"The fear of going to jail was incredible for Brian," she said as her client audibly sobbed.
Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Shilpa Patel disagreed. Peck may not have planned the crime, Patel said, but "he did intend to kill her."
"Make no mistake, Brian Peck is guilty of murder," Patel said during her rebuttal argument.
"He would do and say anything to get out from under the mountain of evidence," Patel said.
He returns to court on Feb. 22.