Allan Kustok will be sentenced on Wednesday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. for the murder of his wife, Anita “Jeanie” Kustok, who was a teacher at Central School in Riverside and Hollywood School in Brookfield.
Kustok, 63, who faces a sentence of 45 years to life, was convicted in March after a trial that lasted nearly four weeks. Judge John Hynes set the sentencing date yesterday after denying a defense motion for a new trial.
Hynes’ denial of the defense’s motion for a new trial came after the completion of a hearing that featured two expert witnesses testifying about the results and implications of a chemical test that the defense had requested after the trial.
Kustok’s attorneys had asked that the test be done during the trial, a request that Hynes denied. The defense contended that had the test been done during the trial, the jury might have reached a different verdict. In March a jury took less than two hours to find Kustok guilty of the 2010 killing of his wife, who was shot in the early morning hours while she was in bed in the couple’s Orland Park home.
The test, which took only a few minutes to conduct, was done the Illinois State Police Crime Lab after the trial. It indicated that soot was present on a blood-stained pillow case recovered from the Kustoks’ home after the shooting. The prosecution’s crime scene reconstruction expert witness, Rod Englert, testified during the trail that the stain on the pillowcase was from clotted blood and not soot.
An expert from the State Police Crime Lab testified in the post-trial hearing that the presence of soot indicated that the gun was six inches or less from the pillow case when it was fired. The defense has suggested that Jeanie Kustok might have accidently shot herself or deliberately killed herself.
Lead defense attorney Richard Beuke contended in his argument to Hynes yesterday that the test results discredited Englert.
“He was absolutely 100-percent wrong,” Beuke said of Englert. “Englert testified that it wasn’t soot. He was also wrong about the distance from the pillowcase to the gun.”
Beuke called Englert a “forensic fraud.”
“He totally lied and misled that jury,” Beuke said. “We know the truth to be that Mr. Englert’s reconstruction was a fraud.”
However, Hynes was not convinced. Hynes said that the long period of time that it took to analyze the test results showed that he had made the right call not to allow the test to be performed in the middle of the trial, saying it would have prolonged a trial that already took longer than expected.
“Neither side would have had the time to analyze the results of the test,” Hynes said. “We did not have the luxury of time for that in mid-trial. … It was something what could not be put in perspective until post-trial.”
Hynes said the defense could have had its experts conduct the test before the trial began, noting that the defense had possession of Englert’s report since the summer of 2012.
“The defense chose not to do anything about it,” Hynes said.
Hynes also rejected Beuke’s characterization of Englert as the key witness in the trial. He said that the cumulative weight of the evidence indicated that Kustok murdered his wife. He mentioned Kustok’s “secret life” and his increasing frequency of seeking out women for sex and romantic relationships in the year preceding the shooting. Hynes cited Kustok’s failure to call 911 after he claimed that he found his wife shot in bed. Kustok waited 45 to 90 minutes before taking his wife to the emergency room at Palos Community Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
“These are not the actions of an innocent person,” Hynes said. “A reasonable person would have acted differently.”
Hynes noted that it would have been hard for the right-handed Jeanie Kustok shoot herself with the .357 Magnum revolver in a way that resulted in the wounds on the left side of her head.
Beuke said after the hearing on Wednesday that he knew the motion for a new trial was a long shot.
“It is very, very rare for a judge to acknowledge that he made a mistake,” Beuke said.
Beuke said an appeal will “most definitely” be filed. The defense contentions about Englert and the failure to conduct the chemical test during the trial will form the basis of the appeal.
Beuke talked briefly to Kustok, who sat through the hearing in his orange Cook County Jail jump suit, after the judge’s ruling.
“He’s extremely disappointed,” Beuke said of Kustok. “He believes that the information that we developed over the last couple of months is the kind of evidence that would have exonerated him.”