Two Central School teachers testified Monday that Anita “Jeanie” Kustok told them in early 2010 that her family owned a gun. The discussion occurred in the Central School teachers’ lounge one day when Kustok was having a lunchtime conversation with fellow teachers Patty Dost and Erin Feldman.
The conversation turned to how the women felt when their husbands were out of town and they were home alone.
“No, I don’t get nervous, because I have a gun in the house,” Kustok said, according to Feldman, a first-grade teacher at Central and a good friend of Jeanie Kustok.
Feldman, who is on maternity leave and is resigning from Riverside Elementary School District 96 at the end of the school year, testified Monday after being called as a witness by defense lawyers for Allan Kustok who is on trial, charged with murdering his wife.
Jeanie Kustok was shot in the face and killed on Sept. 29, 2010. The prosecution claims that her husband shot her, while the defense has suggested that Jeanie Kustok either accidentally shot herself or committed suicide.
Dost testified that she also remembered the conversation about having a gun.
“Jeanie out of the blue said, ‘We have a gun,'” said Dost, a physical education teacher at Central and Hollywood schools.
Dost, like Feldman, was a close friend of Jeanie Kustok.
“Jeanie and I just hit it off,” Dost testified. “She was a dear friend of mine.”
In his opening statement, defense lawyer Richard Beuke said Jeanie Kustok was afraid to stay home alone and that her husband bought her a gun for self-protection. Feldman and Dost’s testimony seem to support that.
They are the only witnesses in the 11-day trial who have testified of knowing that the Kustoks had a gun in their Orland Park home. Other members of the Kustok family, including her brother and sister and her daughter, Sarah, who also testified Monday, said that Jeanie had never mentioned anything about a gun to them.
Sarah Kustok was the last witness in the trial. Allan Kustok did not testify in his own defense. Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The trial is being held at the Bridgeview courthouse.
Feldman and Dost also testified that they called the Orland Park police a few days after Jeanie Kustok’s death to tell detectives about the gun conversation. They testified they went to a small office at Central School, made the phone call and talked to police officers separately.
After that short conversation, which Feldman testified could have lasted as little as three minutes, the two teachers never heard back from Orland Park police until last weekend. The two teachers also testified that they never spoke to anyone from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office until meeting with prosecutors Monday morning shortly before testifying.
Allan Kustok’s attorney contends police from the start focused on his client as the killer and never seriously explored other alternatives.
Former Central School Principal Janice Limperis attended four days of the trial but was not called to testify. Limperis told the Landmark that she noticed Jeanie Kustok had lost weight over the summer of 2010, something Feldman also testified to noticing.
Looking back with hindsight, Limperis said that she now wonders if perhaps Kustok had learned that her husband was having affairs.
Two women testified at the trial about sexual encounters with Allan Kustok, including one woman who said that she began a long-term affair with Allan Kustok in late 2005.
But, Feldman and Dost testified that Kustok mostly seemed like her usual, cheery self in the fall of 2010.
“Jeanie was an amazing person,” Feldman testified, becoming emotional. “She was positive, happy, kind, and loving, an absolutely amazing teacher.”
Retired District 96 teacher Margaret Connolly was also called as a defense witness Monday. Connolly shared the District 96 gifted teaching position with Kustok for a number of years and was a close friend. The two had lunch together once a week. Connelly testified that Kustok was upset in September of 2010, when she saw that her first full paycheck was smaller than it had been in the past.
“She was upset, because it was a significant amount of money,” Connolly testified.
Connolly testified that she advised Kustok to go to her immediate superior, which would have been Limperis, to look into what happened. Connelly testified that a meeting had been scheduled between Limperis and former Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson for Sept. 30, 2010 to discuss the issue.
Kustok died the day before the scheduled meeting.
After the testimony of the teachers Monday, Limperis told the Landmark she thought the smaller paycheck was due to a clerical error, because a new employee had just taken over payroll in the district office.
Dost also testified she knew Kustok was upset about her reduced paycheck.
On cross examination Connelly testified that in her last meeting with Kustok, Jeanie was cheerful and positive. She said Kustok never told her of having a gun.
Dost testified that Kustok had told her about the issue with her paycheck and her possible salary reduction.
But she said Kustok told her that she would never quit her job over a pay cut.
“I couldn’t do that to the kids,” Kustok said, according to Dost.
Dost testified that she didn’t believe that Kustok would ever take her own life and that she told the Orland Park police that she knew Kustok didn’t commit suicide.