Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sycamore, IL: Defense focuses on intimacy link in Greenwell trial

SYCAMORE – Those who testified Monday during the trial of a DeKalb man charged with murder said the victim believed his girlfriend and Michael Greenwell were intimately involved and had made comments about killing Greenwell if that were the case.

Greenwell, 29, is accused of killing Brent Petrakovitz, 44, during Labor Day weekend in 2009. Petrakovitz’s body was found beside Greenwell’s truck in a remote area north of Pleasant Street and west of Peace Road in DeKalb.

Police said the truck and body were burned. Petrakovitz died from head trauma, according to the county coroner. Greenwell pleaded not guilty in December 2010 to three counts of first-degree murder and one count of concealing a homicidal death.

Greenwell’s attorneys have said their client acted in self-defense, saying Petrakovitz told others he wanted to kill Greenwell because he was having sex with Petrakovitz’s girlfriend, Amy Kennedy.

Prosecutors say on Sept. 5, 2009, Greenwell and Petrakovitz were partying in the backyard of Walter and Yvette Zick’s home – drinking beer and snorting cocaine while they sat around a fire pit – when Greenwell retrieved an ax handle from Zick’s garage and beat Petrakovitz to death.

Greenwell, who chose not to testify during the trial, said during a videotaped interview with police from 2010 that was shown in court last week that he was acting in self-defense because Petrakovitz approached him with the ax handle.

Yvette Zick testified that Petrakovitz told her the afternoon of Sept. 5, 2009, that he thought Kennedy had had sex with Greenwell. Petrakovitz was upset, Zick said, and said he would “[expletive]” Greenwell up. An ex-girlfriend of Greenwell’s also testified that Petrakovitz showed up at her house a couple of times in the days prior to his death and made similar comments.

Kennedy testified that while they dated, she and Petrakovitz
often drank and used drugs, which could affect his mood. She said she and Petrakovitz split amicably in the days prior to his death. She admitted to having sex with Greenwell two or three times before Petrakovitz died.

Prosecutors contend that after beating him with the ax handle, Greenwell loaded Petrakovitz’s body into his pickup truck and drove to a grassy area near Peace Road and Pleasant Street, where he dumped the body.

When Greenwell’s pickup became stuck and he couldn’t drive away, he took gasoline and weed killer from a nearby garage and set the truck and Petrakovitz’s body on fire before walking back to the Zicks’ home.

Authorities say Greenwell used the Zicks’ garden hose to wash his hands and received a change of clothes there, and Greenwell burned his soiled clothes in the fire pit. The next day, he called police to tell them Petrakovitz took his truck and he couldn’t find it, authorities said.

Prosecutor Phil Montgomery with the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office asked Kennedy whether she had sex with Greenwell in a tent in the Zicks’ backyard after Petrakovitz had been killed. She said that could be correct, but she did not remember.

Jennifer Hetchler, who said she has known Greenwell his entire life, testified that she was in a relationship with Petrakovitz for 12-13 years and they lived together during that time. While they were dating, Petrakovitz punched her in the face on three separate occasions, once breaking her nose.

At the time of his death, the two were not living together although they spoke daily, Hetchler said. She last saw him Sept. 4, 2009, when he told her he was upset because he thought Greenwell and Kennedy were having sex. She said Petrakovitz wanted to go to the Zicks’ home, but she told him not to do it.

Public defender Regina Harris, representing Greenwell, presented the court with a certified copy of Petrakovitz’s conviction for domestic battery, a Class A misdemeanor, on Dec. 14, 2005, in DeKalb County.

David Darby, who lives a block away from the Zick home and knew both Petrakovitz and Greenwell, said Walter Zick told him Sept. 7, 2009, that he helped Greenwell load Petrakovitz’s body into the truck. Greenwell’s ex-girlfriend also said that after Petrakovitz’s death, Walter Zick told her the same thing and acknowledged he should have shared that information with police.

Zick, charged with concealment of a homicidal death in connection to the crime, has an agreement for a lesser sentence in exchange for his testimony, Harris said.

The trial, which began last week, continues today with closing arguments.

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