BRIDGEVIEW, IL — John Granat was so motivated by hatred for his parents that he groomed his friends to murder them so he could inherit their businesses and money, prosecutors claimed at the long-awaited launch of the double-murder trial of Granat and former best friend Christopher Wyma.
Cook County prosecutors Deborah Lawler and Donna Norton laid out their cases Wednesday against Granat and Wyma, who were seniors at Stagg High School in September 2011 when they and two other teens allegedly carried out the brutal double-murders of Granat’s parents, John and Maria.
The men are being tried together but with separate juries at the Fifth Municipal District Courthouse in Bridgeview, mere miles away from where both young men grew up and lived.
Lawler said Granat lured and enticed three other teens — Wyma, Ehab Qasem and Mohammed Salahat — into doing his bidding with promises of wealth and decadent shopping sprees.
“He groomed his friends, paying them to do his chores, handing out sums of cash like allowances and showering them with expensive clothes,” Lawler said.
When Granat’s parents grounded their son after they found marijuana plants growing in his room, John and Maria Granat “sealed their fates,” Norton said. Describing Granat as seething with anger, he went to Wyma’s house the afternoon of the murders, where the four alleged accomplices met on Wyma’s driveway.
“He told them, ‘I want it done today. Take care of it,’” Lawler said. “He called his friends on Skype when his parents went to sleep and gave them the code word, CONCERT, meaning it was OK to come to the house and kill them.”
Both prosecutors also promised the juries they would hear the “inside story” from accused co-conspirator Qasem, including how the aluminum bats he and Wyma were carrying up the stairs to bludgeon the sleeping couple with clinked together and made a loud noise.
In exchange for his testimony, the prosecutors told the respective juries they offered to wipe clean 74 of the 75 counts against Qasem, where he would receive a 40-year sentence for one count of murder in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Salahat, who was 16 at the time of the murders, agreed to a similar plea last year.
Assistant Public Defender Juanita Lawson-Robertson told the Granat jurors in response to the prosecutors’ opening statements that there were no signs of trouble in the Granat home. His parents kept him close to the house, where he worked side by side with father doing landscaping at properties owned by the older Granat.
“He’s not a monster, he was only a child,” Lawson-Robertson said. “He began experimenting with marijuana when he started hanging with Chris Wyma. He knew John had money and Chris had a lot of friends.”
Norton alleged in her opening for Wyma that when Ehab Qasem hesitated before entering John and Maria Granat’s bedroom, Wyma slapped him on the back of the neck and said: “Are you ready to live like a king.”
Wyma’s assistant public defender Daniel Nolan warned jurors that Qasem was a liar who would say anything to save himself with the hope of one day going free. Nolan said that Cook County Sheriff’s investigators bullied the “small and frail” Wyma, who had recently been diagnosed with panic disorder and irritable bowel syndrome, into making a confession. He said there was no physical evidence linking Wyma to the Granat crime scene.
“Chris Wyma is not responsible,” Nolan said. “He exercised extremely poor judgement by helping and destroying evidence, but at no time was he involved in the commencement of the murders.”
Cook County Sheriff’s police and a Palos Heights police officer also took the stand on Wednesday. Each testified to Granat’s calm demeanor the morning of Sept. 11, 2011. Granat shed no tears, nor did he show any signs of anguish after he told officers how he discovered his parents’ bodies in their bedroom, the ceilings of which one officer testified were “dripping blood.”
When now-retired Cook County Sheriff’s police officer Elizabeth Hogan first encountered Granat outside the family’s home in the 12000 block of 81st Court in unincorporated Palos Park, she offered him a seat in her squad car.
“He said, ‘I was home all night with my parents. They went to bed at 11 p.m. I slept in the basement. I’m a very hard sleeper,’” Hogan testified. “He said he went upstairs to wake his parents up for Mass. He was very calm.”
Granat allegedly told Hogan how he was now going to have to take over his parents’ business, “because I don’t want 20 people to lose their jobs.”
“He asked if the fire department was going to clean up the mess because ‘I want to keep living here,’” Hogan said.
When Palos Heights patrol officer Christopher Hodorowicz arrived on the scene, he remembered Granat, whom he had stopped just hours earlier for a broken rear reflector light. The 17-year-old told him he was on his way home from his friend’s house in Bridgeview. After the murders, prosecutors said the four alleged accomplices went to Wyma’s house where they divided $35,000 they had stolen from the Granat home, burned evidence in a fire pit and wiped the bats and knife of blood with Clorox wipes.
Hodorowicz described how Granat wouldn’t make eye contact with him and mumbled answers as to why he had a water bottle full of chlorine bleach in the glove box of his white Chevy Trailblazer.
“He said it was for his friend’s pool,” Hodorowicz said.
Police learned that Granat had possibly lied about his whereabouts the night before and brought him to Cook County Sheriff’s Police headquarters in Maywood, where he spent the afternoon watching the Chicago Bears game.
Jurors also got to hear the 911 call that Granat made at 7:13 the same morning, when he tried to imply that home invaders had murdered his parents while he slept in the basement, prosecutors said. He was unable to tell a dispatcher when his father’s birthday was, stating that he didn’t know.
During the showing of stomach-churning crime scene photos, John and Maria Granat’s siblings wiped away tears and averted their eyes from a large TV monitor.
Granat spent most of Wednesday’s testimony with his head down at the defense attorney’s table, busying himself writing and occasionally glancing up at a computer monitor on the table. He did not look at the photos of his parents’ bloody and battered bodies.
Article Org: patch.com
By Lorraine Swanson (Patch Staff) – January 12, 2017