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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.

Written by Darren McRoy and Matthew Hendrickson

Originally published Nov. 4, 2011

Police laid out the horrifying circumstances in the 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 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. .

Wilson had .

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.

J Steen December 10, 2011 at 07:28 PM
I do not understand your logic or your silly comment. George Ryan is a RepubliKlan babykiller - but Pat Quinn is our sitting Governor, found guilty of NOTHING by any jury I am aware of. You should seek help.
Donna J October 26, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Amen, Allena, but I could go along with helping this guy meet his Maker a little sooner. I don't know how I missed this story last year. I read it today and my heart was in my throat. I am praying for Kelli, her family and friends, and for all of us. I have a 16 yr. old granddaughter who comes home to a dog and cat sometimes. I pray Tawnie barks her head off and Harvey "cat-attacks" but they could be the first victims. Oh, Lord, protect us all from evil. And, make sure the judicial system has all their ducks in a row so this guy is the one who does NOT slip through the cracks. He and that Peterson jerk could spend life together in a cell I would love to design. Silence of the Lambs wouldn't hold a candle to my nasty, little mind. :-> Donna Goodwin from Hinsdale to Temple City, Ca.
John Q December 27, 2012 at 11:25 PM
I don't understand how it could cost so much to execute. I donate the ammo and pull the trigger for free. Or ill buy a nice rope...its reuseable. I know nothing will bring her back but the criminals that do these things need to be erased from this world. If you kill an inoccent person in cold blood, you need to meet your maker and answer for what you have done. Its our job here on earth to set up that meeting
Sylvia Vitale June 08, 2013 at 11:14 PM
Since this horrible tragedy, I have only seen one report - apparently buried - about the man who committed this murder. He himself is a victim of our broken system and had not previously committed violence though he did spend time in and out of jail and get lost in a system that has no respect for poor folks, particularly if they are, like him, mentally ill. Injustice system is more like it.
reverened mother June 17, 2013 at 12:52 PM
Where is it documented that he suffers from mental illness? He TARGETED that family. He had a vendetta and carried it out. From the reports I have read (back in 2011 and 2012), he knew exactly what he was doing and the poor girl walked in on him, she was his "icing on the cake". Then he further tortured her mother by leaving her despicable messages from the murdered daughter's cell phone. He may have grown up poor, understood. He may have fallen through the system. Also understood. He butchered a 14 year old girl - no amount of understanding could explain or excuse that. Just because one has rough circumstances does not vicitimize him/her to the point where he/she can commit heinous crimes and later plead, "insanity". This was not a crime of passion, this was not a crime of self-defense, this was cold, calculated murder. He didn't have to touch her at all. He could have just run out the door. At worst, he could have tied her up so he could finish robbing the place (which is what he was doing when she walked in). He had murder on his mind - he knew that if anyone walked in on him he would leave no witnesses. As for the earlier comment by whoever stated it costs more to execute than to have them serve life in prison -- that's only because our "system" is so flawed and inmates spend YEARS on death row because they exhaust every possible appeal process. The solution there would be to limit the appeals and execute quickly and not drag it out for decades so that the prisoner dies of natural causes instead of execution! True, DNA testing has vindicated several wrongly convicted criminals. The problem with convicting the wrong person lies in the investigation process. All too often police just want someone in custody. Not enough has been done in the past, and probably still today, to make sure they have the right person to begin with. Those wrongly incarcerated years ago landed in jail because (perhaps) of racist police officers quick to charge and judges too quick to rule. The justice system as a whole - from beat cops to homicide and vice squads all the way up to the judges needs to be re-evaluated to keep the corruption out. Also, tax payers shouldn't be footing the bill for 3 square meals, exercise eqipment and college education for inmates! They're in prison, not a Holiday Inn! A jail cell with sanitary conditions, basic, low-cost meals and basic, limited time outdoors for low/no-cost recreation (running, basketball, volleyball, calisthenics/aerobics/yoga, and a chin up bar or something for body conditioning). No in-house health-club type gym equipment. General movie/TV time and a library furnished with donated books and simple game time - chess/checkers and limited, low cost trade/hobbies so that when they get out maybe they can work in a trade industry. None of that should cost the billions of dollars spent on prisons. No more privatized prisons, either. Prisons should all be state, county or federal. Keep the greedy opportunists out of the prison business! That would immediately cut down on the number of incarcerations for minor infractions that get trumped up into more serious charges.

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