by Robert A. Waters
In March, 2011, Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation to abolish the death penalty in Illinois. Six months later, 14-year-old Kelli O’Laughlin was executed at the hands of a sadistic burglar. Many in the Land of Lincoln felt her killer deserved death, and that Quinn’s actions betrayed Kelli and other innocent victims.
John Wilson, Jr. had served 17 of the past 20 years in prison. His lengthy record included convictions for robbery, burglary, assault, drug charges, and other crimes. Unlike many prisoners, he had no redeeming qualities.
Kelli came home from school at around 3:30 p.m. on October 27, 2011. The LaGrange Patch reported that “Wilson broke into the rear of the home on the 6300 block of Keokuk Avenue by putting a rock in a knit cap and hurling it through the dining room window. After he was confronted by O’Laughlin, authorities say Wilson used a butcher knife from a cutlery block in the family’s kitchen to stab her repeatedly in the back, neck and chest. He then dragged her body from the family room into the kitchen.”
Kelli died a horrific, bloody death. After Wilson stole Kelli’s smartphone and a coin collection, he called a cab to take him home. He used some of the stolen coins to pay for his ride.
Not content to kill an innocent child, Wilson used Kelli’s cell phone to taunt the O’Laughlin family. “Next time the bitch will do as she’s told,” he wrote.
Lawmen used that very phone to track Wilson’s whereabouts, and the career criminal was quickly apprehended. Among other items of evidence, investigators found his DNA on the knitted cap left at the scene.
With no doubt of his guilt, Wilson should have faced the death penalty. But a storm of protest from various groups who demanded the return of execution did no good. Instead, the unrepentant killer received 160 years in prison. As Wilson left the courtroom, he loudly derided the O’Laughlin family.
For many, there is still a place for the death penalty in Illinois.
Few would argue that John Wayne Gacy, who tortured and murdered 38 men and boys in Chicago, should not have been put to death. Had he not been caught, Gacy would no doubt have continued to kill.
Andrew Kokoraleis, executed for the 1987 ritualistic murder of Chicagoan Lorraine Borowski, certainly deserved the ultimate punishment. Kokoraleis and a small cult-like group are suspected of kidnapping up to 17 women and girls, brutally torturing them before taking their lives.
Instead of dying for his crimes, John Wilson, Jr. will live his life.
Instead of living her life, Kelli O’Laughlin lies in her grave.