The gun that took Anita “Jeanie” Kustok’s life was held at least six inches from her face when it was fired, making it highly unlikely that she shot herself, a medical expert testified Friday in the murder trial of Allan Kustok.
The findings of Dr. Hilary McElligott, who conducted the autopsy of Jeanie Kustok, are just the latest revelation in the two-week-old trial that cast doubt on Allan Kustok’s version of what happened the morning of Sept. 29, 2010. He claims his wife died by her own hands.
The .357 magnum revolver that killed Jeanie Kustok was held between six and 24 inches from her left cheek, “a range of fire is typically not seen” in suicide cases, McElligott testified at the Bridgeview court house.
But there were other vexing details to the story Allan Kustok, 63, told of his wife’s death at their Orland Park home, prompting McElligott to rule Jeanie Kustok’s death a homicide.
Allan Kustok, who prosecutors have portrayed as a serial philanderer, motivated to kill his wife to escape a financially troubled and unhappy marriage, told police that he was jarred awake early in the morning by loud boom. Jeanie Kustok, he told police, lay lifeless in bed next to him with the gun clutched to her chest.
But that simply doesn’t make sense, McElligott testified, calling suicide or an accidental discharge of the gun “an unlikely scenario.”
McElligott noted that Jeanie Kustok was allegedly found holding the revolver in her right hand, with a gunshot wound to her left cheek. She also testified that the fatal bullet traveled at a slightly downward angle, exiting Jeanie Kustok’s neck. McElligott concluded that it wasn’t possible for Jeanie Kustok to use her right hand to shoot herself on the left side of her face at such an angle.
Furthermore, McElligott testified that Allan Kustok never called 911 and took over an hour to drive his wife’s body to a hospital.
“It was not an accidental shooting,” said McElligott, who is currently a pathologist for the DuPage County coroner. “It is unusual there would be such a lag between the time of injury and time medical treatment was sought.”
Allan Kustok’s defense attorneys countered that McElligott relied on one big assumption when ruling the death a homicide — that Jeanie Kustok was right-handed.
Defense attorneys suggested that detectives who reported their findings to McElligott had cherry-picked their facts.
“If those detectives are sitting in the autopsy room and giving you wrong information, that can steer you in one direction or another,” attorney Rick Beuke said. “They got the conclusion they wanted that afternoon.”
Later on Friday, prosecutors used a gun shop receipt to further pick away at another pillar of Kustok’s defense.
Defense attorneys have claimed that in the months before Jeanie Kustok’s shooting death, the mother of two adult children had grown increasingly paranoid of home invaders.
Kustok allegedly told police he purchased the .357 Magnum hand gun as an anniversary gift for his wife to make her feel safe when he was absent from their alarm-protected home.
But a receipt from Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale, detailing the June 2009 purchase, indicates Allan Kustok intended to use the handgun for target practice — not home defense — as he allegedly told police.
The date of purchase on the receipt, evidence which was presented to the jury, also draws into question another aspect of what Kustok allegedly told detectives.
Authorities have previously said that Allan Kustok bought the gun for Jeanie Kustok in the months before her death in 2010.
But the date on the receipt shows the gun was purchase in June, 2009 — well over a year before she died.
Meanwhile, friend and family have testified that Jeanie Kustok never expressed a fear of burglars or mentioned owning a gun.
Just weeks before her death, at a Labor Day gathering, “she was talkative and seemed happy,” testified her personal doctor and close friend, Cressa Perish.
The prosecution is expected to conclude their arguments next Tuesday as the trial stretches into its third week.