College sweethearts Allan and Anita “Jeanie” Kustok appeared to have attained the suburban dream.
Jeanie Kustok taught gifted students. Allan Kustok worked in sales. Their now-adult children were high school sports standouts at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park and later went on to greater renown — Zak as a quarterback for Northwestern University, Sarah as a broadcaster for Comcast SportsNet.
That all changed on Sept. 29, 2010, when Allan Kustok drove the body of his dead wife, wrapped in bedding with a gunshot wound to the face, to a southwest suburban hospital.
On Tuesday, a Cook County jury took less than two hours to convict him of first-degree murder for shooting Jeanie Kustok to death while she slept at their upscale Orland Park home.
Allan Kustok showed little emotion after the verdict was read aloud at the Bridgeview courthouse. He faces a minimum of 45 years in prison, prosecutors said.
As soon as the jury left the courtroom, Jeanie Kustok’s sister, Patricia Krcmery, shouted, “I knew it, I knew it” and hugged everybody around her.
“Justice was served. Thank God,” Krcmery added.
The prosecution contended Kustok, 63, a former medical supplies salesman and serial philanderer, was driven to kill his wife to escape a financially troubled and unhappy marriage.
Meanwhile, defense attorneys suggested Jeanie Kustok had grown increasingly paranoid of home invaders. They said Jeanie Kustok accidentally shot herself in the early morning hours with a .357 Magnum handgun — given to her as an anniversary present — while Allan Kustok slept next to her.
“When you uncover what somebody truly is, it speaks for itself,” Jeanie Kustok’s brother John Runko told reporters after the jury verdict. “I know my sister would never shoot herself. She never would have left her kids and she never would have left my mother, who was alive at the time.”
Throughout the trial, sordid details of Kustok’s apparent double life emerged. While Kustok maintained the outward facade of a suburban family man, he was carousing and womanizing on the sly, prosecutors said.
“I can’t say I came in feeling he was completely innocent,” Sharon Crooks, Allan Kustok’s sister said later. “A lot of facts I did not know.”
In the months before Jeanie Kustok’s death Allan Kustok had taken to trolling an Internet hook-up site for flings with other married people, according to court testimony.
That came on top of a five-year affair he had with Michelle Ventress, a south suburban attorney, who lived nearby, Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Gonzalez said.
He also cruised the Viagra Triangle area of downtown Chicago, attempting to woo women with his Bill Clinton-esque looks.
One of the women he unsuccessfully pursued, a Gold Coast real estate agent named Bonni Gross, said he talked of an impending divorce.
Allan Kustok “was unhappy at home, unhappy with his mistress,” Gonzalez said. “He just didn’t know how to cut the tie.”
But even if Allan Kustok hadn’t chased other women, the fact that he never bothered to call 911 after his wife was shot in the face was troubling enough to convict, prosecutors said. What’s worse, he waited at least another hour to drive her body to the hospital, according to court testimony.
“If he had waited five minutes [to call 911], I would still be standing here saying, ‘he’s guilty,’” Gonzalez told the six-woman, six-man jury during closing arguments. “He knew he wasn’t calling 911 that morning. He wanted to make sure she was dead.”
The physical evidence, including blood spatter patterns and the trajectory of the fatal bullet, suggested a gunman shot Jeanie Kustok at close range while standing alongside the couple’s bed, according to court testimony.
Defense attorney Rick Beuke suggested that over-zealous authorities wanted to convict Allan Kustok from the moment he arrived at Palos Community Hospital with Jeanie Kustok’s body.
Authorities then used bad police work and a $150,000 crime scene recreation expert to cherry-pick facts and railroad Allan Kustok, Beuke said.
They ginned testimony about Allan Kustok’s infidelities to provide a motive, Beuke said.
Referring to Kustok’s five-year affair, Beuke said: “Never once did [Ventress] say, ‘Al, leave your wife or I’m leaving you.’ This was as casual of a sexual relationship that you could probably have.”
One month after Allan Kustok had been charged “they reached out to the Mariano Rivera of blood spatter,” Beuke said, comparing crime scene recreation expert Rod Englert to the New York Yankees famed former closer. Englert “had all the answers to the test before he ever took the test.”
Contributing: Phil Kadner and Mike Nolan