By Joel Hood and Lolly Bowean
Prosecutors began laying out the murder case against Allan J. Kustok on Friday, using the defendant’s own explanation of events to bring charges against him, while his children stood by him.
After driving his wife’s body to a southwest suburban hospital Wednesday morning, an emotional Kustok, 59, told investigators he’d been awakened by a loud noise in their Orland Park home and found his wife, Anita Kustok, in the bedroom with a gunshot wound in her face, said assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Pete Troy.
Anita Kustok, whom friends and family called “Jeanie”, lay flat with her arms crossed atop her chest. In her right hand was the .357-caliber Smith and Wesson the defendant had bought a year ago, Allan Kustok told police.
It was an improbable story, prosecutors said at a news conference Friday, considering the medical examiner’s office determined the bullet that killed Kustok entered her left cheek below the eye and exited the right side of her neck — an awkward shot for somebody holding a gun in their right hand.
More troubling, they said, was that Kustok didn’t call 911 after discovering his wife and told police that he waited 90 minutes before driving her to a hospital in Palos Heights.
“I believe any reasonable person would find it unreasonable to wait an hour and a half before you take your loving spouse to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the head,” Troy said.
Kustok displayed no emotion as he was arraigned Friday in Bridgeview on charges of first-degree murder. Bail was set at $2 million as the defendant’s children — a local TV sports reporter and a former star quarterback — sat in court.
“The children know that their father could not have committed these acts the state accused him of,” attorney Pete Rush said on behalf of Sarah Kustok, a reporter for Comcast SportsNet, and her brother, Zak, who led Northwestern to a Big Ten football title in 2000 before a brief stint in the NFL.
“Jeannie Kustok was a saint,” Rush said. “She lived her life for everyone else — for her family, for God.”
In building the case, Troy said, prosecutors will examine the relationship between the longtime couple. Typically in domestic violence cases, financial strains and marital problems contribute to a motive, he said.
Records show the Kustoks paid off their home in the 10900 block of Royal Oaks Lane in 2004 after a jury awarded $800,000 to $900,000 to the family in a civil case against one of Allan Kustok’s former employers. Kustok has had numerous jobs over the past 15 years, records show, most recently as a local sales representative for a sports medicine company based in Florida.
Anita Kustok, 58, an elementary school teacher, was pronounced dead at about 7 a.m. Wednesday at Palos Community Hospital. The medical examiner’s office said she likely died within a few seconds of the gunshot, which was fired from just inches away.
When news of her death became public Thursday, it sent shockwaves through the affluent neighborhood where the couple lived and seemed to have an idyllic life. Friends said they were in disbelief and described the two as a “perfect, happy couple.”
Friends said the Kustoks met while Allan Kustok was an offensive lineman for the University of Illinois from 1969-73.
Prosecutors said Kustok told investigators that, after being awakened and finding his wife mortally wounded, he picked up the gun and threw it across the room. He later retrieved it and put it to his own head but did not pull the trigger. Instead he fired five shots into an armoire and wiped the blood from his wife’s face.
Troy said the size and power of the gun would have made it unlikely that Kustok could shoot herself in such a manner.
“I found it striking that, according to him, she was lying on her back with her arms crossed and a weapon of significant power and weight was still in her right hand,” Troy said.
Prosecutors said Kustok told authorities that he wrapped his wife in his green robe and a bed sheet before driving her to the hospital.
Police said that when they reached Allan Kustok at the hospital, he was emotional but showed “no outward signs of injury.”
Kustok’s attorney, Rick Beuke, asked that the $2 million bail be reduced to $200,000. Kustok does not have a passport and is not a flight risk, Beuke said.
Cook County Circuit Judge Joan M. O’Brien denied the request, and Kustok remained in custody late Friday at the Cook County Jail’s Cermak Hospital after undergoing physical and mental evaluations, a sheriff’s spokesman said.
Kustok is due back in court Oct. 25.