John Granat Jr. and his best friend, Christopher Wyma, were both found guilty Wednesday afternoon of two counts of first-degree murder in the bludgeoning deaths of Granat’s parents in September 2011.
After closing arguments were made in Room 110 of the Bridgeview Courthouse, it took a jury of seven women and five men just under two hours to find the younger Granat guilty.
Granat, 22, in dark slacks and a white striped shirt, showed no emotion as the verdicts were read by the clerk of Cook County Circuit Court Associate Judge Neil Linehan. He did not look toward the 20 or so relatives and family friends gathered in the court room.
Wyma’s jury, of nine women and three men, needed just 40 minutes to find him guilty. Wyma, 22, nodded slowly as the clerk read each verdict.
The son of a Palos Heights police officer, the cleanly shaven Wyma wore dark slacks, a striped shirt a few sizes too large, and a striped tie. Three times he looked toward family and friends in the court room, flashing a brief smile as he was led to a holding cell.
Post-trial motions will be heard Feb. 22 for Wyma and Feb. 24 for Granat, said Judge Linehan, who thanked each jury for their service.
Wyma’s family and friends quickly left the courtroom after his verdict was read.
Assistant state’s attorneys Deborah Lawler and Donna Norton hugged the sister of Maria Granat afterward. Family members declined comment, but a friend said he was surprised at how quick a verdict was reached.
“All I can say is justice is swift. At least now the family can get some closure. It’s been too long,” said Frank Brongiel, of Alsip, a Granat family friend for 20 years. “They can go home to their families now.”
Lurid details revealed in the trial “were gruesome” Brongiel said.
He said he never saw anything out of the ordinary in the younger Granat that gave him cause for concern. “I’d see him out cutting the lawn on his father’s properties,” Brongiel said.
But the prosecution painted a much darker picture of a young man who, although he never wanted for money, hated his parents, especially after they found his backyard marijuana crop and threw out the plants.
He was grounded in August 2011 for that, and grew so angry he told his friends that he wanted his parents dead. Together, prosecutors said, they devised a plot in which the parents would be murdered
John Granat Sr. and his wife, Maria Granat, were beaten to death with baseball bats in the bedroom early Sept. 11, 2011, in their spacious Palos Township home in the 12700 block of 81st Court.
When Maria, showed signs of life after the beating, she was also stabbed 21 times in the brutal attacks, prosecutors said. Wyma, of Bridgeview, and another friend, Ehab Qasem, of Hickory Hills, had beaten the couple. Qasem did the stabbing. They acted on orders from Granat, who was busy in the garage, counting money stolen from his parents and later distributed to Qasem, Wyma and Mohammed Salahat, driver of the getaway car.
When told his mother was still breathing, Granat handed a knife to Qasem and told him to “finish it,” the state said.
On Wednesday, during closing arguments, Lawler recounted how Qasem on Tuesday told the jury that on Sept. 10, 2011, an angry Granat told his friends “I want it done today.”
“What this offender did to his parents is unimaginable. It takes our breath away with its sheer brutality and callousness,” Lawler said as she pointed one of the aluminum bats at the unflinching Granat.
Granat, she said, had lured and groomed the other three by buying clothes for them and handing them wads of money, once giving Qasem $2,300 stuffed into an empty chewing gum package.
“He planted the seed. You asked if they liked this lifestyle. He told them, ‘If my parents were dead, everything would be in my name’,” Lawler said.
Using a code word for the murders, he sent a Skype message to Wyma at 1:46 a.m. Sept. 11 that set the wheels in motion.
“He was the mastermind of the plan. This ‘Son of the Year’ opened the door for them,” Lawler said.
Detailed cell phone records place the four in the vicinity of the Granat home in the early hours of Sept. 11, 2011, she said. She also noted how Granat’s story changed 14 times when he was interrogated by Cook County Sheriff’s police investigators, and questioned how a teenager who allegedly finds his parents brutally murdered would sound so calm on a 911 call.
When talking with police at the scene, Granat asked “is the fire department going to clean up the mess because I want to keep living here.”
His story began to unravel when, after dividing the money at Wyma’s home, Granat was pulled over by a Palos Heights police officer in a routine traffic stop at 5:18 a.m., she said.
“We know he’s not a quick thinker. He told (detectives) no less than 14 versions of his whereabouts Sept. 10 and 11 and who murdered his parents,” Lawler said.
Public defender LaFonzo Palmer said “John did not kill his parents” and said the murders were carried out by Wyma and Qasem who feared their “gravy train” of easy money from Granat was coming to an end.
“John is stupid. He hung out with the wrong kids, with the bad kids,” Palmer said. “The state says he wasn’t upset on the 911 call. You all know everyone responds differently to shock and fear."
He blasted Qasem’s testimony fingering Granat, saying that Qasem admitted to lying to detectives and a grand jury.
“You didn’t see a remorseful young man. You saw a young man here protective himself,” Palmer said, noting that Qasem testified against his friends in exchange for a 40-year term in prison, not the life sentences faced by Granat and Wyma.
After the Granat jury began deliberations, it was time for final arguments on Wyma.
Assistant state’s attorney Norton made extensive use of his sometimes chilling videotaped interrogations from October 2011.
Told that Qasem was given more money than him, an angry Wyma asks, “How much does he have? Sixteen K?”
The quote showed Wyma’s hunger for “blood money,” Norton said. “This was Chris’ priority, his greed.”
Another tape has Wyma saying that in a visit on Sept. 10, 2011, Granat told him he wanted his parents “(expletive) dead.”
Norton recounted Qasem’s testimony in which he admitted having second thoughts before entering the couple’s bedroom that night, again stressing Wyma’s hunger for money.
“He slapped him on the back of the neck because Wyma need Qasem to help him do his job, to help feel free and live like a king. That was dream. What were the dreams of John and Maria Granat? To grown old together in the home he built with his two hands? To enjoy the fruits of their years of hard work, to be surrounded by loved ones? Their dreams were shattered by the sound of baseball bats striking their heads and bodies,” Norton said.
Earlier in the trial, Wyma’s former girlfriend told of finding $15,000 in his room the day after the murders.
“He got his money for helping John out. He got it for murdering Maria and John Granat. The $15,000 he got in exchange for the screams he can’t get out of his head,” Norton said.
Qasem and Salahat, now serving 35 years, were also paid cash by Granat, she said.
Wyma’s attorney, public defender Daniel Nolan, argued there was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Wyma was actually in the house on Sept. 11. Cell phone records indicating his phone was there do not mean he was, Nolan said.
A sentencing date has yet to be set.