Jury finds man guilty of breaking into Joliet home with an ax

Allen Gillaspie

A man who represented himself in a trial failed to persuade a jury that he was not guilty of breaking into his aunt’s home in Joliet with an ax, an incident that a prosecutor said turned the woman’s home “into a nightmare.”

On Thursday, a jury found Allen Gillaspie, 38, of Marysville, Washington, guilty of the Feb. 5, 2021 home invasion at a Pandola Avenue residence in Joliet’s West Side. The jury delivered the verdict about 40 minutes after members left the courtroom to begin deliberations.

The offense of home invasion is a class X felony that carries a penalty of 6 to 30 years in prison.

Gillaspie chose not to have a lawyer represent him at the trial that began Wednesday. Nevertheless, a Will County assistant public defender sat in the courtroom gallery as stand-by counsel.

Gillaspie had been found unfit to stand trial on June 17, 2021, following a psychological evaluation. He was then found fit to stand trial on Dec. 17. 2021.

Throughout the trial, Gillaspie referred to himself as either defendant or by his name.

In closing arguments, Gillaspie said prosecutors did not place “the defendant” at the scene of the crime. He did not elaborate.

Will County Assistant State’s Attorneys Dan Egan and Amanda Tasker pointed to DNA and fingerprint evidence obtained from the ax that forensic scientists linked to Gillaspie. Police officers recovered the ax from inside of a broken curio cabinet that was in the home.

Both prosecutors also presented surveillance video of a vehicle with a Washington state license plate that was in Joliet shortly after the incident. A Joliet police detective testified that Gillaspie is the registered owner of the vehicle.

Tena Klimek, the aunt of Gillaspie, testified that she was at her home having coffee and waiting for her husband when she saw a vehicle quickly pull up to her driveway. She said she saw a man get out of the vehicle and open the gate that led to the rear side of her home.

Klimek said when the man approached the door, she saw he was wearing a face mask and had a beard. She said he was carrying an ax that he used to smash through the sliding glass door in the back of the home.

Klimek said she ran out the front door screaming, cried for help and fell into a snow bank outside.

“I thought it was the day I was going to die,” Klimek said.

The man’s vehicle had a Washington state license plate, Klimek said.

It had been about 10 years since she last saw Gillaspie, whom she identified in court as her nephew, Klimek said.

During cross examination, Gillaspie asked his aunt, “Do you know why Mr. Gillaspie would do this?”

Egan raised an objection to the question, which Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak sustained.