Before Allan Kustok was sentenced to 60 years in prison for killing his wife, his voice cracked as he told a packed courtroom that he did not call 911 the morning of Anita “Jeanie” Kustok’s death because he couldn’t bear to be apart from her.
“I wanted to be with her as long as I could because once I gave her up, I knew I would never have that opportunity again,” Kustok said Wednesday in a courtroom at the Cook County courthouse in Bridgeview. “I’m innocent of these charges.”
But Circuit Court Judge John Hynes did not believe the 63-year-old Kustok’s claims, and called the case “one of the most baffling” he had been involved in. Barely concealing his scorn for Kustok, Hynes said he “was supposed to be her protector but became her executioner.”
The couple’s daughter, sportscaster Sarah Kustok, who testified at her father’s March trial that she believed he was innocent, watched silently in the back of the courtroom during the sentencing, her hands folded in her lap. She left without comment immediately after the hearing.
The couple’s son, Zak, a former quarterback at Sandburg High School and Northwestern University, did not attend the hearing. He said previously he did not support his father’s bid for an acquittal.
Allan Kustok was found guilty in March of his wife’s murder. Prosecutors said Jeanie Kustok, 58, was shot at close range by her husband using a .357 Magnum revolver he’d bought her as a gift for their wedding anniversary.
Before imposing the sentence, Hynes said Kustok “had it all” and was “living the American dream, but that was not good enough, he needed more,” referencing the liaisons Kustok had with women outside his marriage in the months leading up to his wife’s death, according to trial testimony. The couple had been married more than 34 years.
His lawyers had argued that the powerful handgun — purportedly bought by Kustok for his wife’s protection because his job often took him out of town — might have accidentally fired or that Jeanie Kustok intentionally shot herself early on the morning of Sept. 29, 2010, in the bedroom of the couple’s Orland Park home. Kustok had told police he was awakened by a shot and found his wife fatally wounded.
Prosecutors noted that Allan Kustok didn’t call 911 after discovering his wife and waited some 90 minutes before wrapping her lifeless body in a robe and bedding and driving to Palos Community Hospital.
Kustok told the court he didn’t call 911 because she was “beyond help,” and he didn’t want to allow an “untold number of strangers into my home.”
The judge said that in listening to testimony during the nearly four-week trial, he learned that Jeanie Kustok, a teacher, always maintained a “positive attitude” and “brought out the best in people.”
Her death was “not only a loss to her family and friends but a loss to our entire community,” Hynes said, describing the woman as “a bright light in our community.”
Jeanie’s sister Peggy McKain, in a statement read in court Wednesday by one of the prosecutors, said her death deeply affected their mother, Phyllis Runko, who died in 2011.
“I feel such sadness that my mother was forced to live the last year of her life with a broken heart and so many unanswered questions,” McKain said in the statement.
Another sister, Patricia Krcmery, reading a statement from the witness stand, said “a piece of my mother died the day Jeanie was taken from our lives,” and her death “has left a hole in our hearts.”
Krcmery said her family misses her sister so much “that it hurts to put into words.”
“This is just a sad day for everyone,” Krcmery said after the sentencing. “I’m just glad justice was served.”
John Runko, Jeanie’s younger brother who attended the trial and all subsequent hearings, said after the sentencing that he knows that Kustok’s claim of innocence is a lie, and the reason he killed Jeanie is “between him and himself and his God.”
Rick Beuke, one of Kustok’s lawyers, told the court he couldn’t understand how Kustok could have exchanged texts with his daughter the night before his wife’s death, discussed a birthday gift for Jeanie that Sarah had planned and then shot her the following morning.
“For the very first time in my 30-plus years doing this kind of work, I can honestly say in my heart I believe an innocent man is going to be going to the penitentiary,” Beuke said.
Jennifer Gonzalez, an assistant state’s attorney and the prosecutor on the case, said at the sentencing hearing that Jeanie Kustok “didn’t know the Allan Kustok we’ve all come to know during this trial,” and that Kustok saw his wife “as a weight, and she was holding him down from the life he wanted to live.”
Gonzalez didn’t ask Hynes for a specific term and told the judge that “no sentence can replace Jeanie Kustok.”
Kustok could have been sentenced to between 45 years to life in prison. Under state law, he must serve the full term minus just more than the four years time served in jail while awaiting trial and sentencing.
His attorney urged the judge to “do what you think is the right thing” in setting the sentence.
“Whatever number you put on a sentence, that number is going to mean he’s going to die in the penitentiary,” Beuke said.