The man charged with stabbing 14-year-old Kelli O’Laughlin to death when she interrupted a burglary in her suburban home sent taunting text messages to her mother from the girl’s stolen cell phone, it has emerged.
John L. Wilson Junior was today in court charged with first-degree murder and residential burglary. He was denied bail by a judge.
Kelli’s funeral took place just a few miles away at St. John of the Cross Church in Western Springs, Chicago at around the same time, with mourners lining the road as her coffin passed by.
It was also revealed today that a local police officer stopped Wilson Jr, who was out on parole for armed robbery when the killing took place, on the night of the murder but had no cause to arrest him.
The 38-year-old, whose last known address is on South Lafayette Avenue in Chicago, was taken into custody on Wednesday afternoon, six days after the killing at the O’Laughlin’s $500,000 family home in Indian Head Park.
Today Judge Peter A. Felice ordered Wilson Jr, who has spent 17 years of the last two decades behind bars, be held without bond during an appearance at the Cook County courthouse in Bridgeview.
Wilson Jr was dressed in a grey sweatshirt that covered his arm tattoos and said nothing during the hearing, in front of a packed courthouse, the Chicago Sun Times reported.
Those in attendance were told how last Thursday Wilson Jr entered the O’Laughlin’s leafy neighbourhood and broke a dining room window of their $500,000 home with a rock wrapped in a red knit cap.
When popular Lyons Township High School freshman Kelli arrived home around 3.40pm, ‘she was confronted by John Wilson,’ Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said at a news conference.
Wilson Jr grabbed an eight inch carving knife from a butcher’s block and stabbed Kelli in the neck, back and chest, before dragging her dead body from the family room into the kitchen, Ms Alvarez said, accordingh to the Chicago Tribune.
He then ransacked the home and fled with a bowl of coins, an iPod Touch and Kelli’s phone. The knife was found in large pool of blood in the family.
She was discovered by her mother Brenda at around 5.30pm.
In the hours after the murder, Wilson Jr used the phone to send ‘taunting and disturbing’ messages to Kelli’s mother. ‘There are no words to describe how horrific it is,’ Ms Alvarez said. She would not reveal the exact nature of the taunts.
Assistant State’s Attorney Peter Troy said the messages to Kelli’s mother Brenda came within hours of her daughter’s murder.
He said: ‘A horrific crime was committed here, and then to have the mother of the victim subject to taunts by the person who did it . . . I can’t describe it.’
‘To me that doesn’t sound like a random burglary,’ Marie Raleigh told Fox News Chicago. ‘ I’m a little bit concerned that someone could be so vicious and cruel as to do that to the family of this victim. Kelli didn’t deserve that and neither did her family.’
‘The United States Secret Service was able to track the defendant’s cellphone and Kelli’s cellphone,’ Mr Troy said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
‘The agents learned these two phones travelled in tandem with one another throughout the city of Chicago.’
Wilson Jr was located Wednesday on the South Side. When found, he had his phone but not Kelli’s, the Chicago Tribune reported.
DNA recovered from the knit cap matched Wilson Jr, Alvarez said. Three witnesses identified Wilson in a line-up, she said.
Wilson Jr has an extensive history of criminal violence, including a combined nine years spent in prison for carjacking in 1993 and aggravated battery in 2001.
His most recently received an 11-year sentence for robbert. He was taken into custody in August 2002 and paroled on November 16, 2010, the Chicago Tribune reported.
It has been revealed that at around 8pm on the night of the killing, a Willow Springs police officer responding to another disturbance near the O’Laughlin home stopped Wilson Jr.
He said he was walking in the area because his car had broken down and he needed a cab, leaving the officer no cause to arrest him.
That officer was then off work for several days, Fox News Chicago reported, and only saw the composite sketch of the suspect when he returned to service recently.
He reportedly identified Wilson Jr as the man in the drawing, which depicts a black man, 5’8″ to 5’9″ inches tall, with a medium build. He was was seen in the area at the time wearing a dark, hooded sweatshirt and had a backpack.
Police then traced the driver of the cab the suspect got into after being stopped by the officer at a 7-11 in Willow Springs, for miles from the murder scene.
Investigators arranged for a line-up, in which Wilson Jr was positively identified, Fox News Chicago reported.
The unsuspecting taxi-driver took the suspect to Midway airport where the man paid for his fare with coins. These were not the special gold coins taken from the victim’s home however.
Authorities spoke positively about the investigation in a press conference on Thursday night. Sheriff Tom Dart said the case had been presented to the state’s attorney’s office.
‘We feel very confident about the case and the individual in custody,’ Sheriff Dart said. Indian Head Park Police Chief Frank Alonzo said: ‘I think we can rest a little bit easier tonight.’
Last week, another man was questioned in connection with the murder. That man had been charged in September with another burglary in the area but was later released, the Chicago Tribune reported.
He was not charged over Kelli’s killing but the original burglary charge was reinstated and he is now in Cook County Jail, the Chicago Tribue reported.
The murder shook Indian Head Park, a leafy community of roughly 3,800, and numerous online tribute groups attracting thousands have been set up. A memorial fund has also been started.
Kelli’s father, John O’Laughlin, said on Wednesday that family members have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support they have received.