'Day of reckoning' as Champaign man pleads guilty in '85 murder case

'Day of reckoning' as Champaign man pleads guilty in '85 murder case

WHEATON — A Champaign man whose DNA linked him to a decades-old murder case in northern Illinois has pleaded guilty to that crime for a sentence of 80 years in prison.

Michael R. Jones, 64, who last lived in the 2500 block of Southmoor Drive, admitted that he murdered Kristina Wesselman, 15, of Glen Ellyn, in July 1985.

Jones pleaded guilty Thursday before DuPage County Judge George Bakalis to a count of murder that alleged he fatally stabbed the teen during the course of a forcible felony, namely criminal sexual assault.

Bakalis will formally enter the sentence Jan. 23, the day that Jones’ jury trial was scheduled to begin. Because he has to be sentenced under 1985 guidelines, Jones is eligible for day-for-day good time. Given his age, it’s likely he will die in prison.

A release from the office of DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said that Miss Wesselman left her home in unincorporated Glen Ellyn on the afternoon of July 21, 1985, to go to a nearby grocery store but she never returned home.

About 11:15 a.m. the next day, her partially nude body was discovered in a field between her home and the store. She had been raped and stabbed multiple times.

Despite an extensive investigation, authorities were unable to make an arrest.

That is, until modern science pointed a finger at Jones in 2015.

On May 18 of that year, he got into a dispute with his former wife at their home in southwest Champaign that led to criminal charges of felony domestic battery against him.

He pleaded guilty to that offense in July 2015 in Champaign County and as part of his probationary sentence, was required to submit a DNA sample to the state of Illinois.

On Sept. 10, 2015, the DuPage County Crime Laboratory informed detectives from the DuPage sheriff’s office that there was a match in the DNA database to evidence obtained from the sex assault kit performed during Miss Wesselman’s autopsy.

Jones was arrested Sept. 18, 2015, and has been in jail since.

“Kristy Wesselman had her whole life ahead of her,” said Berlin, the DuPage County state’s attorney.

“She was a beautiful young girl, full of life and loved by all. More than three decades have passed since Michael Jones sexually assaulted and brutally murdered Kristy, forever changing the lives of her surviving family and friends. I’m sure that in that time, not a day has passed that Kristy’s family hasn’t thought about today, the day of reckoning for the man who sexually assaulted and murdered Kristy. Her family and friends have waited a long time for justice and today, justice was delivered,” he said Thursday.

Berlin credited DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba and his office for their work and thanked Champaign police and the Champaign County Probation Department for their help in arresting Jones.

Jones had a prior conviction for the August 1977 kidnapping of a 27-year-old Shiller Park woman he spotted riding a bicycle. Authorities said Jones used his car to force the victim off her bicycle and then took her to his parents’ home, where he robbed, raped and choked her. Jones was released from prison in 1983.

In Champaign, prior to his retirement, Jones worked as a maintenance man for a large apartment complex. He was later self-employed, doing maintenance for multiple apartment owners.

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capt80 wrote on January 18, 2018 at 5:01 pm

"Given his age, it’s likely he will die in prison."

Good.

annabellissimo wrote on January 18, 2018 at 6:01 pm

Let us be grateful that such a loathsome predator will finally, once and for all, be gone. Let us be grateful, yet again, for good police work, for the kind of detective mentality that doesn't let go of "cold cases," that actually pursues genuine justice. Abuse and unrealistic demands are hurled at them constantly while, meanwhile they keep doing the hardest work of society and they solve crimes and put away the worst and most dangerous among us. Citizens who value a safe, sane society appreciate and value such good police work and are grateful for it. Let us be grateful for the scientists who have enabled DNA to be used in ways that helps society rid itself of those who are a danger and a scourge and give a voice to those who seek justice. Let us pause to think of the women and their families and their futures who have been hurt and lost because this creature destroyed them. Let us celebrate that he will be gone. Let us grieve for those he destroyed. May they rest in peace. May he never know any peace, ever. One wants to retch at the appearance of these faces on the newspaper pages: this face, the cold, cruel, empty eyes of Christiansen, others - sick, twisted, deformed attackers whose contemptible lives go on while those they destroyed are gone. What happens to such beings, how does such depravity develop. The women who have been hurt or killed are missed and mourned. Those who do the hurting or killing will be forgotten, the only memory will be revulsion, disgust, contempt..Good riddance.

Homeboy wrote on January 18, 2018 at 6:01 pm

He should have died in prison for the 1977 kidnapping/ rape conviction. He was released in 6 years? You gotta be kidding me. Got out and then raped and killed Kristina.

GLG wrote on January 19, 2018 at 7:01 am

Jones will live out his life in a prison, 3 hots and a cot, medical and dental care that a lot of people would love to have but can't afford. What ever social security money this killer gets should be paid directly to the state for the cost of his incarceration or given to the family of his victim. This man brutaly murdered a young woman, He should die for his crime, but many think capitol punishment is cruel and unusual. We need to bring it back for people like this! And not wait 25 years to carry it out. The time he will serve is the easy part, Whats waiting on th other side is a different story!

Mary Schenk needs to do another story of how this man only served 6 year for a rape conviction.  

bb wrote on January 19, 2018 at 9:01 am

My guess is that there were probably others. If this guy was anywhere near Champaign in the Fall of 1985 authorities should definitely interview him about the murder of the woman found in a cornfield SW of Champaign about a week after Farm Aid. I think she was a counselor or psychiatrist at one of the hospitals, out for a jog when she disappeared. Found partially clothed, blunt object trauma. I remember it well because I used to ride my bike in the area when she was found. Fits his MO pretty well, and was just a couple of months after the murder up north.

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