Investigators Detail 'Horrific' Circumstances of 14-Year-Old Girl's Murder
John L. Wilson, Jr. is accused of killing Kelli O'Laughlin, 14, on Oct. 27. Police pursued hundreds of tips to bring "some level of justice," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
Police laid out the horrifying circumstances in the Oct. 27 death of 14-year-old Kelli O’Laughlin at a press conference Friday morning and accused parolee John L. Wilson, Jr. of killing O'Laughin after she inadvertently walked in on him burglarizing her house when she arrived home from school.
According to Indian Head Park Police, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and Illinois State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Wilson broke into the rear of the home on the 6300 block of Keokuk Avenue by putting a rock in a knit cap and hurling it through the dining room window.
After he was confronted by O’Laughlin, authorities say Wilson used a butcher knife from a cutlery block in the family’s kitchen to stab her repeatedly in the back, neck and chest. He then dragged her body from the family room into the kitchen.
“There are no words to describe how horrific it was,” said Alvarez. “All of us who have children—teenagers—are haunted by this crime.”
Both the knife and the knit cap were found at the scene of the crime; a DNA profile from the cap matches Wilson’s own.
Police say Wilson then stole several items from the home: a bowl containing foreign coins, an iPod Touch and Kelli’s own cell phone. Three witnesses saw Wilson in the area between 2:45 and 3:30 p.m., and have identified him positively in a police lineup.
Soon afterwards, Wilson was confronted by a Willow Springs police officer responding to a report of a disturbance in a Willow Springs 7-Eleven convenience store, but not arrested. Dart called the discovery of the police stop near the convenience store a significant break in the investigation because police learned Wilson's name at that time.
From there, Wilson is thought to have hailed a taxi to an Orange Line CTA station near Midway Airport. Wilson paid for the taxi fare using foreign coins.
Police say Wilson used Kelli’s cell phone to send her mother “taunting and disturbing” text messages—but in doing so, allowed police to use both O'Laughlin’s phone and Wilson’s own phone to track his location. Area departments, the FBI and the Secret Service were all involved in the hunt.
“You name it, we did it,” said Dart in reference to the scope of the investigation.
Wilson was arrested on Wednesday on Chicago's South Side. He was arraigned today in 5th District court in Bridgeview on counts of first degree felony murder and residential burglary. No bail was posted.
Alvarez said police currently believe Wilson acted alone, but are still following up on tips and will continue to follow any leads provided to them.
Wilson was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2003 for robbery of a school or place of worship. He was paroled from the Pontiac Correctional facility after serving more than half of that term, the required amount under Illinois state law to be eligible for parole. Police said Wilson also had a “long criminal history” before that.
Alvarez said that if Illinois still used capital punishment, the charges against Wilson would warrant it.
"This a case that definitely would have qualified for the death penalty," she said.
Dart said that investigators are still following up on evidence and more details may be provided at a later date.
Indian Head Park Police Chief Frank Alonzo thanked all the investigators, on all levels, who spent an intense week on the case.
"I'm very thankful for the hard work of Indian Head Park police with the assistance of the [South Suburban] Major Crimes Task Force," Alonzo said.
Dart echoed his sentiments and said that at the end of the day, he hoped some level of justice had been served. Although, he added, he would be naive to say true justice had been served—nothing would bring Kelli back.
Sabrina Wu contributed to the reporting of this story.