A man the police suspected of killing his wife and burning her body in the trunk of her car decades ago in Chicago ended up being at the center of another murder investigation years later in the mountains of Poland.
Jan Krol was the Chicago Police Department’s only suspect in the strangulation of his former wife, beauty salon owner Jadwiga Krol, in 1989 on the Northwest Side. Krol was jealous of her relationship with her boyfriend, according to the police.
But Cook County prosecutors said detectives didn’t have enough evidence to support criminal charges.
Krol was being deported to Poland in 1992 after being convicted in an unrelated fraud scheme involving immigration documents. He settled in Zakopane, Poland, a ski resort town.
Earlier this month, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Chicago Police Department finally closed the Jadwiga Krol investigation last year after receiving word from his daughter that he’d killed himself in Poland in 2013.
Elizabeth Osowska-Nowik, who says she was a friend of Jadwiga Krol, saw the story, and “I started Googling Jan Krol kind of because it was so hard for me to believe that he actually killed himself.”
“My Google search brought an article from a Polish newspaper about another murder, this time in Zakopane, of his partner he lived with” — Alina Brasse-Tarwajnis, Osowska-Novik told the Sun-Times. “It happened in 2011. The whole story about Alina is so strange.
“When Jadwiga died, we had no doubt that [Jan Krol] did kill her,” says Osowska-Nowik, who didn’t know Brasse-Tarwajnis.
“So did many of her friends and clients. When I read the article from Poland, my first thought was, ‘Oh, no, not another victim.’ ”
She says Jadwiga Krol was “very nice, quiet, very pretty.”
Osowska-Novik’s children helped the Krols’ son and daughter with English lessons.
Osowska-Nowik says her ex-husband had met Jan Krol through an airplane flying club.
“Jan never talked to us about his personal life,” she says. “I remember that, during a visitation [for Jadwiga Krol] in the funeral home, some woman got very upset, and she started screaming at Jan. She called him a cold-blooded killer in front of everyone. I also remember that his reaction was strange — like he was more angry than upset.”
After she read that the Chicago police had closed the books on the Krol murder investigation, Osowska-Nowik found a story in the Gazeta Krakowska newspaper in Poland about Brasse-Tarwajnis, headlined “Murder in the mountains.” It said the 51-year-old suffered head wounds and was found dead in May 2011 at Jan Krol’s villa in Poland.
Krol told the police in Poland he was in Rome at the time of her death, visiting the Vatican for the May 1, 2011, beatification of the late Pope John Paul II and that Brasse-Tarwajnis was gone when he returned home. The police searched the property but didn’t find her. About five days later, her body was discovered in a storage room in a basement.
Krol spent about six months in jail as the police in Poland investigated, but their suspicions turned to a handyman he’d hired to work on his guest house and whom Krol suspected of stealing from him.
Krol said he didn’t have anything to do with the killing, and his worker kept changing his story, at first telling the police he killed Brasse-Tarwajnis for revenge because Krol owed him money and later saying Krol hired him to kill her. He told the Polish authorities that Krol was going to give her a drug to make her drowsy so she wouldn’t be able to defend herself and that Krol told him to strangle her with a pillow, according to the news report in the Gazeta Krakowska.
Finally, the handyman said he was innocent and that Krol had come back from Italy, banged Brasse-Tarwajnis’s head on the floor and hit her with a shovel, leaving her dead.
A Polish court didn’t believe the worker’s story. He was convicted in her death and sentenced to 25 years in prison, which was reduced on appeal to 15 years.
“In the end, the court was convinced that Jan Krol could not have killed Alina because he was in Rome when she died,” says Artur Drozdzak, the reporter who covered the case for the Gazeta Krakowska.
Any secrets Krol might have had about what happened died with him.