SYCAMORE – April will mark more than seven years since the killings of Patricia A. Wilson and Robert J. Wilson, who both were bludgeoned to death inside their Sycamore home in 2016.
It also will mark the long-awaited start to a jury trial for the Ohio man accused of murder in their deaths – and a chance for the Wilson family to know for sure what happened to their loved ones on the night of Aug. 14, 2016.
Jonathan D. Hurst, now 53, formerly of Chicago, is expected to be tried starting April 22 by a jury of his peers for first-degree murder in the attacks that left Robert, 64, and his mother, Patricia, 85, dead in their rural Sycamore home on Old State Road. If convicted, Hurst could face life in prison.
Lead prosecutor Suzanne Collins of the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office said Monday that a trial date is welcome news for the Wilson family. Several family members have appeared in the courtroom to witness Hurst’s hearings since his arrest.
“As far as the family goes, the two sisters and daughter of Patricia Wilson were in court today and were so happy to have a trial date set,” Collins said. “They have suffered a tremendous loss, and hopefully the trial may help to offer them some closure.”
DeKalb County Judge Philip Montgomery set the trial date, which comes more than four years after Hurst’s arrest Feb. 24, 2020. He’s been held without bond in the DeKalb County jail since.
Circuit Court Judge Marcy Buick will preside over the case.
In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly slowed court proceedings across Illinois, movement in Hurst’s case also was delayed when his defense lawyer changed.
He’s represented by Chip Criswell of the DeKalb County Public Defender’s Office as of mid-2022.
DeKalb County Coroner’s Office reports showed that the Wilsons were beaten to death. Robert also was stabbed.
In subsequent appearances both in court and via Zoom, Hurst has appeared without notable reaction, answering to yes or no questions prompted by a judge or simply remaining silent. He appears with a lengthy beard, ponytail and wears glasses.
In the years after his arrest, Hurst has maintained his innocence. He pleaded not guilty in March 2020. He’s also requested access to his documents.
Hurst’s defense procured its own DNA expert, who agreed to provide a report on what court officials have said are thousands of pages of evidence expected to be brought forth during the trial.
Hurst was arrested by DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputies in Cincinnati after a 3½-year investigation chasing more than 1,300 leads.
Authorities have not identified a motive or murder weapon in the attacks.
At the time of his arrest, police said Hurst denied ever being in Sycamore, although significant DNA evidence found inside the Wilson home places him there.
Police said DNA samples collected from a variety of sources inside the Wilson home matched Hurst’s DNA, reconstructed through an extensive process with Virginia-based Parabon Labs. It’s the same forensic DNA tool used to catch the suspect in the Golden State Killer case in California.
Hurst has no known ties to the Sycamore area or the Wilson family, but deputies said an abundance of DNA collected in the Wilsons’ home matches Hurst with the crime. Cellphone records put him in the area the day before, and Patricia’s car was found parked less than a mile from Hurst’s former home in Chicago.
Coroner’s reports showed that the attacker did not show interest in other items inside the home, including the Wilsons’ wallets or jewelry that Patricia wore.
Hurst is next set to appear for a pre-trial hearing at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 14. A hearing for the status of the jury trial is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. April 17.