A jury in DuPage County took about 21/2 hours Tuesday to find a Willow Springs man guilty of orchestrating the murders of three members of a Darien family in 2010.
Johnny Borizov, 31, was found guilty of murder and solicitation in the slayings of Jeffrey and Lori Kramer and their son, Michael, 20. Borizov, according to authorities, had persuaded a vulnerable acquaintance, Jacob Nodarse, to commit the murders while Borizov, in an attempt to create an alibi, was gambling at a casino.
Borizov was involved in a bitter custody dispute with Angela Kramer, the mother of Borizov's young son and the daughter of Jeffrey and Lori Kramer. Prosecutors alleged that the custody battle and Borizov's hatred for the Kramer family motivated his actions.
Prosecutors said Borizov had elaborately schemed over several months to convince Nodarse that Nodarse's life was in danger if the Kramers weren't killed.
Angela Kramer, who was also targeted by the murderer but escaped physical harm the night of the slaying by hiding in a closet, started crying and put her face into her hands when the clerk began reading the verdicts about 7 p.m. at the courthouse in Wheaton.
Borizov displayed little reaction when the verdicts were read. When the proceedings were over, he was escorted from the courtroom and did not look back.
Someone hissed the word "devil" as he left.
Borizov will receive a sentence of life in prison, which is mandatory for two or more murder convictions, according to State's Attorney Robert Berlin.
The trial, which was in its fourth week, was the first in the Chicago area in which cameras were allowed in a courtroom.
The verdicts came at the end of a day in which defense attorneys and prosecutors during closing arguments sparred over the credibility of Nodarse, who pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the murders and who testified against Borizov.
Jury foreman Kevin James said Nodarse's testimony, which came over three days, was credible, especially in light of corroborating evidence, such as cellphone records that showed Borizov near the Kramers' home a few days before the murders.
William Svatos, the father of Lori Kramer, also said Nodarse's testimony was key.
"Everything that Jake said (prosecutors) proved," Svatos said.
Borizov's legal team "had prepared him for the possibility this (guilty verdict) might happen," attorney Richard Kling said.
But another defense attorney, Paul DeLuca, said there were "substantial issues" for appeal.
Attorney Susana Ortiz spent two hours giving the defense closing argument, most of which was centered on attacking Nodarse.
"The demise of Jacob Nodarse began way before any of the events in this case started happening," she told jurors.
Nodarse testified that Borizov convinced him over a period of months that Nodarse's life was in danger. Borizov told him the Kramers, particularly Michael Kramer, a former Nodarse friend, were plotting to have him killed because of his association with Borizov, Nodarse said.
On the night of the slayings, Borizov was gambling on a riverboat in Joliet.
"He thought he was a big winner because he went to the casino and a couple of people he hated were dead when he left," Assistant State's Attorney Joe Ruggiero told jurors in the state's closing argument.
"He think he's going to escape this," Ruggiero said to the jurors, pointing to Borizov. "He's going to outsmart us all. The law's not dumb, and neither are you."
Angela Kramer was able to call 911 while hiding in the closet when the shootings took place. Her brother Anthony was in a basement bedroom and escaped unhurt, as did Michael Kramer's girlfriend. The child at the center of the custody dispute was with Borizov's family.
Nodarse fled after the shootings, dumping his pistol at a restaurant in southern Indiana as he drove to Florida. He was taken into custody near his parents home the day after the shootings.
He testified that he had met Borizov in summer 2009 and their friendship caused a rupture in Nodarse's friendship with Michael Kramer. The Kramers disliked Borizov because of the way he treated Angela, authorities said.
Defense attorneys claimed Nodarse acted alone, driven by drugs and mental illness.
"This isn't a fog of mental illness," Assistant State's Attorney Bernie Murray told the jury Tuesday. "This is a fog of Johnny Borizov's bag of BS."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times