SYCAMORE – More than 3 1/2 years after a Sycamore mother and son were found brutally killed in their rural Sycamore home, DNA evidence has led to an arrest in the case, DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said Tuesday.
Police on Monday arrested Jonathan D. Hurst, 51, of Cincinnati, in connection with the killings of Robert Wilson, 64, and his mother Patricia Wilson, 85, in August 2016. Hurst has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of the Wilsons at their home at 16058 Old State Road. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison. Hurst did not have any criminal record or a known history of violence, police said, and they do not believe he had any accomplices.
DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said Hurst’s DNA matches that found inside the Wilson’s home after they were murdered. Hurst’s arrest is the culmination of an investigation that led detectives as far away as Washington state as they pursued more than 1,300 leads and collected DNA samples from more than 20 people – most of them local – before finding a match.
“It was a great accomplishment on the part of the investigators and the community as well,” Scott said. “I think the prayers that went up from the Sycamore community, I think God answered those prayers with this event today. I’m just thankful for it and amazed.”
Finding suspect after years-long investigation
With assistance from Cincinnati police, Sheriff’s detectives John Holiday and Josh Duehning, along with Detective Sgt. Dave Aranda, arrested Hurst at his home at 457 Lloyd Place, a duplex on a tree-lined street where he rented a unit from a relative. Hurst was taken into custody without incident and was scheduled to appear in court in Hamilton County, Ohio, on Tuesday. Authorities are seeking to have him extradited to Sycamore to face the charges, Scott said.
The arrest was the culmination of an investigation that took about 15,000 working hours and sent police as far away as Washington state as they followed up on more than 1,300 leads, Sullivan said.
The Illinois State Police crime lab retrieved a DNA sample of the suspected killer from crime scene evidence, and that DNA profile was passed on to a Reston, Virginia-based company called Parabon NanoLabs, which created a family tree for the suspect using publicly available DNA databases. Hurst’s arrest came after investigators collected DNA samples from more than 20 people, most of them local – and ruling them out, police said.
The Wilsons’ family members had asked not to be contacted, but Chief Deputy Andy Sullivan said they were appreciative that an arrest had been made.
“It’s been a long investigation with a lot of ups and downs,” Sullivan said. “We’ve kept in contact with the family the entire time, giving updates when we can. … On many different occasions I thought, ‘we’re gonna get this,’ and then it fizzles out. So being able to get a resolution on this case is great for the community and it’s wonderful for that family.”
Robert and Patricia Wilson were longtime Sycamore-area residents. They were members of St. John’s Lutheran Church and Robert was the treasurer of the Sycamore Moose Lodge. Family members discovered the crime scene shortly before 6 p.m. on Aug. 15, almost a full day after the Wilsons were killed, police have said. Nine days passed before Patricia Wilson’s white 2010 Chevrolet Impala was discovered legally parked on Stockton Avenue near Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, near where Route 64 ends.
The Wilsons’ bodies were found in separate rooms on the same floor of their tri-level home on Old State, Sullivan said, and nothing of value was taken other than the Impala. A coroner’s investigation found the Wilsons died from blunt force trauma. At 6-feet 2-inches and 280 pounds at the time of his arrest, Hurst would have been capable of overpowering them, Sullivan said.
Hurst had no known ties to DeKalb County or the Wilson family, Sullivan said, and police still do not know how he got into the house, or a motive for the killings.
“He claims he wasn’t here,” Sullivan said. “But we can prove that he was.”
A snapshot of the alleged killer from Chicago to Ohio
Hurst lived in Chicago, and worked at restaurants in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, including at Glunz Tavern, where he waited tables and tended bar. He listed his current place of employment as Sacred Beast, a Cincinnati restaurant where employees confirmed he worked there but declined to comment on Tuesday.
On his Facebook page, he referred to his Chicago apartment as the “Chamber of Secrets” and his basement apartment in Cincinnati as the “Caves of Chaos”.
He stopped posting to Facebook in June of 2016, two months before the murders, and resumed in September 2017.
Hurst also lived in an apartment at 1446 N. Wells St. in Chicago in August 2016, within walking distance of where Patricia Wilson’s vehicle was found, police said.
Hurst’s former landlord in Chicago, Don Klugman, 86, of the Old Town neighborhood, said Hurst lived in his Chicago apartment building for eight to 10 years.
“[He was] just an overall good person,” Klugman said. “Fair, friendly, certainly not someone that would think of in connection with these sorts of things.”
Klugman has lived in the building on N. Wells St. since 1965. When he lived there, Hurst lived in the apartment next door to Klugman.
Klugman said Hurst did not move out suddenly, telling the landlord well in advance before he left the Chicago apartment.
Another neighbor in the building, Abra Adduci, 39, said she didn’t know Hurst well, but that their interactions were always friendly. Adduci said she moved into the building around 2013.
“I never thought he was anything other than a nice guy who kept to himself,” Adduci said. “He was always super nice to me in a very neighborly way, obviously. Like, we didn’t hang out or anything, but if we ran into each other on the stairs we’d always be cordial.”
Breaking down DNA
Hurst’s DNA had not been entered in any law-enforcement databases because he had no criminal record, Sullivan said, which is why it was so hard for investigators to find him. Once they did, cell phone records and other evidence showed Hurst was in the area at the time of the crime.
The work of building a family tree matching Hurst’s DNA was done in conjunction with Parabon Labs, which in 2018 used the DNA profile to create scientific approximations of the suspect.
As it turned out, Hurst was older than any of the released images from Parabon, which were meant to approximate an appearance at 18, 25, and 40. But the point of them wasn’t necessarily to help identify a suspect, Parabon spokeswoman Paula Armentrout said.
“That image we produced was just so [police] could rule out certain traits,” Armentrout said. “It’s never going to be 100% match.”
Armentrout said Parabon typically will build family trees for crime suspects using publicly available DNA databases – not commercial ones that offer to tell people about their family history.
“We’re building trees backward between the person of interest and close genetic matches that we find in this database that people have chosen to participate in,” Armentrout said. “And then we try to bring it forward.”
However, the DNA research was only a guide for investigators, she said.”We just pointed the agency in the right direction,” she said. “We just gave them scientific tips based on the DNA. We didn’t necessarily serve them up the name of the individual. There was a lot of investigative work that had to go into using the information we were able to glean.”‘
Sullivan said the research produced a sprawling family tree, including multiple generations back, that led them to Hurst, who had not been a suspect until about a week ago.
In a news conference Tuesday, DeKalb County State’s Attorney said the timeline for the extradition process is still unknown.
“The goal of our prosecution is to seek justice for the family and for our community,” Amato said. “Over the last three-and-a-half years, there’s been so many unanswered questions about this horrendous murder.”
A $50,000 reward was offered in the case, but has not been claimed because the case was solved through investigative techniques, Scott said.
Anyone with solid information about the crime that could help police make their case is asked to contact CrimeStoppers at 815-895-3272 or email email@example.com, or the Sheriff’s office at 815-895-2155.
Both Scott and Sullivan thanked the many investigators from County, state and federal agencies that assisted in the investigation. Both seemed relieved at having brought the beginnings of closure to the story.
“We have never called this a cold case, we were never going to do that,” Sullivan said. “It’s always been an active investigation and we were committed to finding this offender for the family and this community.”
Shaw Media reporters Katie Smith and Sean Hammond contributed to this story.
Source: The Daily Chronicle