When Lesley Strickland learned her father had been gunned down before his routine Saturday morning dialysis appointment, she rushed from her home in Milwaukee to Chicago’s South Side.
Strickland said she was greeted by her drunk stepmother, who started giving away furniture and discussing how she would redecorate while treating family and friends to pizza, tacos and White Castle.
The next day Janet Strickland went to Rent-A-Center and came back with a 60-inch television and television stand with a built-in fireplace and refrigerator, Lesley Strickland said.
“There was no remorse, no crying,” Lesley Strickland recalled Wednesday of the time immediately after 72-year-old William Strickland’s murder.
Cook County prosecutors say that’s because Janet Strickland plotted to kill her husband of nearly three decades and enlisted the elderly man’s namesake grandson — Lesley Strickland’s son — to do the deadly deed in the early morning hours of March 2, 2013.
Janet Strickland was tired of her husband’s unwillingness to spend money and wanted “nice things,” Assistant State’s Attorney Christa Bowden said at the opening of the younger William Strickland’s jury trial.
A bench trial for 67-year-old Janet Strickland is being held at the same time in Judge James Linn’s courtroom. Both Stricklands are charged with murder.
Once Janet Strickland got rid of her husband, she had access to the cash to go on her sprees, Bowden said.
The younger William Strickland didn’t hesitate to use his dead grandfather’s money either, blowing it on tattoos, shoes and an iPhone, Bowden said.
The pair, who lived with the victim in the 400 block of East 95th Street, previously conspired on ways to kill the older William Strickland, Bowden said. They allegedly proposed poisoning him, killing him in bed and also spoke to another man about offing him. And when that man bailed out, the younger William Strickland stepped up, Bowden said.
William Strickland, armed with his grandfather’s own gun, fired six times, according to Bowden, who showed jurors a picture of the senior citizen lying dead in a gangway by his home.
“His family was no comfort to him in his last moments because it was in their hands that he died,” Bowden said.
Assistant Public Defender Samantha Slonim said Janet Strickland alone was to blame for her husband’s murder.
Janet Strickland was hatching her “money-hungry murderous plan” with two other men while the younger William Strickland was driving his girlfriend and another woman home after a party, Slonim said.
“He is not a criminal mastermind,” Slonim said of her now 22-year-old client. “He is not responsible for what happened.”
Edward Cleveland, a Pace bus driver who was scheduled to take the older William Strickland to his appointment, said he saw two men after the gunfire.
One of the culprits took the older William Strickland’s bag from him before fleeing, Cleveland said.
While Assistant Public Defender Amy Thompson didn’t give an opening statement for Janet Strickland, she suggested during the trial that her client had given her husband a pillow and blanket to comfort him after he was shot.
The then-teenage William Strickland was “stone faced and solemn” while Janet Strickland was “upset and crying” standing behind the storm door, said Chicago Police officer Daniel Fava, who was among the first to arrive at the scene.
Lesley Strickland said her stepmother was still partying even after the younger William Strickland was jailed for his grandfather’s murder in late March that year.
When Lesley Strickland told Janet Strickland detectives may soon start questioning her, she said she “doesn’t have anything to hide” and spent the day at a casino in Milwaukee.
A few days later, on April 4, 2013, Lesley Strickland visited her son at Cook County Jail and asked, “Why? … What happened?”
“He put his head down,” Lesley Strickland said. “Eventually, he looked up and told me [Janet Strickland] had it done.”
Janet Strickland had given the younger William Strickland a car to ensure that he’d “keep his mouth closed” about what had happened, Lesley Strickland said.
As she wiped away tears, Lesley Strickland also said her son denied he pulled the trigger.
“He told you, ‘I didn’t shoot grandpa?'” Lesley Strickland was asked during cross-examination.
“Yes,” Lesley Strickland replied.