INDIAN HEAD PARK, Ill. – Hours after coming home to find her 14-year-old daughter on the kitchen floor near the knife that had been used to stab the girl to death, a suburban Chicago woman started receiving taunting text messages from the teen's cell phone. Prosecutors say they were sent by the convicted felon charged Friday in the slaying.
Officials who announced first-degree murder and burglary charges against John Wilson Jr., 38, refused to detail the text messages sent to the mother of Kelli O'Laughlin, who authorities say was killed after coming home from school and interrupting a burglary. But they talked about being parents themselves and struggled to explain the cruelty.
"Even the most experienced investigators and prosecutors have been brought to tears by the very facts of this case and the chilling nature of this case," Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said moments after a judge ordered Wilson held without bond.
"A horrific crime was committed (and) then to have the mother of the victim being subjected to taunts from the person who did this, words cannot describe that," Sheriff Tom Dart said.
Nearby, in the small, wooded town about 15 miles southwest of Chicago where the girl lived, hundreds of trees were adorned with white ribbons in her memory and residents lined a major street holding hands. When they went home, some said they checked all their windows and doors to make sure they were locked.
"People are very concerned, they're scared," Bob Mikes, who has lived in Indian Head Park for 63 of his 86 years, said as he worked in his yard about three blocks from the O'Laughlin home.
Authorities allege that on Oct. 27, Wilson sneaked up to the rear of the family's house, put a rock inside a knit cap and used the rock to break a dining room window. When the teen came home from school while he was still inside, Alvarez said, Wilson grabbed a carving knife and stabbed her repeatedly before dragging her body from the family room into the kitchen.
After visiting a nearby convenience store, where he talked to a police officer responding to an unrelated disturbance call, Wilson took a cab to a train station at Chicago's Midway airport and paid his fair with foreign coins similar to ones stolen from the O'Laughlin house, authorities said. Alvarez would not say if they were the same coins.
Alvarez said an analysis of the knit cap by the state's crime lab revealed the DNA on the cap matched that of Wilson. Six days later, Wilson was arrested on Chicago's South Side.
Wilson was carrying a cell phone, Alvarez said. He was not carrying the girl's cell phone, but Alvarez said the Secret Service tracked the movements of his cell phone. She said agents determined that while they were tracking what authorities suspect were Wilson's movements, the two phones "traveled in tandem" throughout Chicago.
Alvarez also said three witnesses have identified Wilson from a lineup as the man they saw in the area of the house between 2:45 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. — or about 10 minutes before Kelli came home from school.
Alvarez and Dart said there was no indication that the girl knew her attacker or that Wilson had any connection with the family. But they would not discuss if Wilson allegedly selected the house, which is bordered on one side by a small park, at random.
Wilson was paroled from an Illinois prison last November after serving after serving 7½ years of an 11-year sentence for robbery. Illinois Department of Corrections records also show he had served prison time on earlier convictions for aggravated battery, auto theft and drug possession.
After Wilson was arrested, he did not make any comments to investigators, Alvarez said. An attorney at the county's public defender's office who represented Wilson at Friday's hearing did not immediately return a call for comment.