A jury deliberated less than two hours before delivering a guilty verdict for a former Palos Park man accused of grooming three friends to murder his parents.
John Granat, 22, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder of his parents, John and Maria Granat. Granat was emotionless as the verdict was announced.
Maria’s sister, Kathy, sobbed quietly in the courtroom. After her nephew was led away, she hugged Cook County assistant state’s attorneys Donna Norton and Deborah Lawler. Less than 20 minutes later, the family went back to courtroom when a verdict was reached for Granat’s accomplice, former best friend Christopher Wyma.
The week-long trial was marked by dramatic testimony by star witness and co-defendant Ehab Qasem. In exchange for his testimony, Qasem agreed to plead guilty to one count of murder and a 40-year sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
John Granat was 17 years old and a senior at Stagg High School when he called 911 to report that he slept through a home invasion and found his parents bludgeoned to death and “drowning in their own blood” on Sept. 11, 2011.
The now 22-year-old man listened impassively as Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Deborah Lawler described how Granat “kept his little paws clean counting money” as his two friends, Wyma and Qasem crept up the stairs of his parents home and beat them both to death with aluminum baseball bats.
“John and Maria could not not possibly know or conceive what their only child, their baby boy, had planned,” Lawler said. “What the defendant did to his own parents is unimaginable. It takes our breath away with its sheer callousness.”
Cook County Sheriff’s detectives were on to the high schooler from the start after he said he’d been at home all night and fell asleep in the basement. Granat’s alibi began falling apart after he was confronted about being pulled over by a Palos Heights police officer in an early morning traffic stop.
Furious and angry that his parents threw away his “little marijuana plants growing the backyard and grounded him,” Lawler said Granat began plotting to kill his parents in the summer of 2011.
“He began scouting out people to execute his plan He chose his best friend, Christopher Wyma, and good friends Ehab Qasem and Mohammed Salahat,” Lawler said. “He didn’t care how it was done or if his parents suffered horribly.”
After the fourth accomplice, Salahat, dropped Wyma and Qasem at the end of the Granats’ block , they were met by the young master plotter, who was hiding outside the family’s home in the bushes. Salahat left the pair and drove around the area while the murders were going down.
Lawler said that Granat made sure the first thing his friends saw when they entered the garage of the home that his father “built with his own two hands” were the stacks of money piled on a work bench.
“He made sure that his accomplices saw the stacks and stack of one-hundred dollar bills that he had already gathered and stolen from his parents,” Lawler said.
During their first ascent up the stairs to the couple’s bedroom, Wyma’s and Qasem’s bats clinked together, sending both “speed walking” back to the garage, where Granat told them to “take care of it.”
As Qasem and Wyma stood over the sleeping couple with bats raised, John and Maria “cried and screamed” with the initial blows. As Maria took her last breaths, Granat handed Qasem a knife and told him to “finish it.”
“Maria’s skull was so badly beaten, it fell apart in [medical examiner James Philkins’ hands] like broken egg shell,” Lawler said.
Qasem stabbed the woman in the stomach, then handed the knife to Granat, while Qasem went up to the attic to look for a safe with a money.
Lawler told the jurors that in Illinois, a person is legally responsible for his or her conduct when soliciting others to do criminal acts.
“He didn’t have the courage to do it alone,” she said. “His (Granat’s) hand was on that bat and on that knife. So was Mohammed Salahat. He was responsible for the strike of those bats and the stab of that knife.”
Granat’s assistant public defender LaFonzo Palmer called the case horrific and said the teen didn’t kill his parents.
“John didn’t plan to kill anyone,” Palmer said. “He didn’t choose the weapons or tell anyone what to say to police.”
Palmer said Granat was stupid and hanging out with the bad kids.
“He was a dumb kid trying to buy friends and be a tough guy,” Palmer said. “He hung out at Chris’s house, getting high, doing blunt runs, because his father who’s a cop and his mother don’t care.”
Palmer also tried to impeach co-defendant Qasem’s testimony, stating his testimony was “bought” by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office in exchange for a plea deal of one count of first degree murder and 40 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Salahat, the driver, accepted a similar plea deal last year.
Jurors listened to five days of testimony before Judge Neil Linehan in the Bridgeview Courthouse, including interrogation videos, crime scene photos, testimony by police officers, the Cook County Medical Examiner and cellular tower experts.
Granat and Wyma were being tried together but with separate juries at the Bridgeview Courthouse.
Granat is due back for post-trial motions on Feb. 24, but sentencing is not expected to take place. His attorney, Palmer, told Judge Neil Linehan that he planned to bring “mitigation experts” to testify at Granat’s sentencing.
Article Org: palospatch.com