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Dillard renews call for Illinois death penalty

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

State Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, has renewed his call for the reinstatement of the death penalty following the stalking and killing of a woman in DuPage County.

The senator pointed to a story that broke Thursday about a 20-year-old Canadian man whom authorities say methodically stalked and tracked a Westmont woman before killing her Wednesday night in Oak Brook — even stopping to reload his gun and continue shooting during the attack.

DuPage County Judge Michael Wolfe denied bail Thursday for Dmitry Smirnov of Surrey, British Columbia, charged with the first-degree murder in the death of Jitka Vesel, 36.

In court Thursday, DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said Smirnov met Vesel in 2008 through an Internet dating site. After they met, Smirnov moved to the United States.

But the relationship soured, and Smirnov moved back to Canada. Since 2009, Berlin said, he has been harassing Vesel. She filed a complaint that year with the Berwyn Police Department over harassing email and telephone calls, Berlin said.

About two weeks ago, Smirnov decided to leave Canada, returning to the U.S., Berlin said. According to Berlin, Smirnov had done research to determine if Illinois had the death penalty and decided to go through with Vesel’s murder when he discovered it does not.

This point aggravated Dillard.

“The proves the fallacy of the idea that the death penalty is not a deterrent,” Dillard said.

In March, Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty in Illinois. Dillard said the state needs to reinstate the death penalty for the “worst of the worst,” which he said were serial killers, murderers of children and people who murder witnesses to crimes.

Dillard specifically mentioned the case of Jeanine Nicarico, of Naperville, as a reason for the death penalty to be revived. In July 2009, Brian Dugan pleaded guilty to fatally bludgeoning Jeanine on Feb. 25, 1983, after kidnapping her from her home on a day she stayed home sick from school. A jury later sentenced him to death.

This came years after two other men were convicted of Nicarico’s murder, then later cleared. These wrongful convictions became a significant part of the argument on whether to repeal the death penalty.

Dugan already was serving life prison terms for the 1984 murder of Donna Schnorr of Geneva and the 1985 slaying of 7-year-old Melissa Ackerman of Somonauk.

Dillard said criminals like Dugan are a reason why the death penalty needs to be brought back in Illinois.

The Smirnov case puts the death penalty issue back front and center, Dillard said.

Smirnov arrived in Chicago last weekend, using the Internet to locate Vesel’s home, Berlin said. He then used a GPS tracking device, which he glued to Vesel’s car, to track her movements via the Internet, Berlin said.

He was waiting for Vesel when she went to her car Wednesday night in the parking lot of the Windsor Office Park in Oak Brook.

“He ran up to her; he began shooting; he reloaded and shot her some more,” Berlin said. “She fell on the ground, and he kept shooting.”

Smirnov fled the scene, calling Chicago police to tell them he had killed a woman in Oak Brook, Berlin said. Chicago police contacted Oak Brook authorities, and Smirnov turned himself in to a Romeoville police officer.

Eleven shell casings were recovered at the scene, Berlin said, and investigators found the gun in Smirnov’s car.

Smirnov could face up to life in prison.

His next scheduled court date is May 9.

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