Bond set at $1M for Iraq veteran

March 1, 2010 3:17:00 PM PST
A southwest suburban soldier who just returned home from a tour of duty is charged with murdering his wife. Authorities say Joseph Jesk shot his wife during an argument in their Oak Lawn home Saturday night.

Jesk recently returned from an 11-month tour of duty in Iraq.

Jesk turned himself into police about 15 minutes after the shooting. He made a tearful statement in court Monday.

A sobbing Jesk needed the help of a sheriff's deputy to stand as a judge set his bond at $1 million just days after he is accused of shooting his wife to death in their southwest suburban home. While Monday morning prosecutors portrayed the murder as an act of domestic violence, the attorney for the Iraq war veteran calls the slaying of Heather Jesk a tragic accident.

Heather Jesk's family left court Monday morning after the emotional bond hearing for the man accused of killing her, her husband of almost three years, Joseph Jesk. The 23-year-old Iraq war veteran had recently returned home after serving nearly a year overseas.

"I really don't think that has a lot to do with the situation. Like I said in court, I think this is a tragic accident," said Michael Clancy, Joseph Jesk's defense attorney.

Police were called to the Jesk home that they shared with a relative around 10:45 late Saturday night. The couple, several of their family members and a family friend had been at a benefit for an uncle. The couple's girls, ages 2 years old and 11 months, were at a relative's house.

Witnesses tell police that Jesk and his wife began arguing after returning home and went downstairs to the basement -- when a shot rang out.

"There was some arguing between him and his wife. It started off early evening and they both went down in the basement by themselves and they heard a gunshot. The brother's sister went down in the basement and saw the victim laying in a pool of blood," said Division Chief Mike Kaufmann, Oak Lawn Police Department.

Investigators say after Jesk shot his wife in the forehead he ran from the family home. As authorities worked to use a cell phone signal to find him, he called police to turn himself in. Officers took him into custody about 20 minutes later, near the town's 95th Street Metra Station.

Kaufmann said Jesk told police "he had just killed the only person in the world that loved him."

As authorities look into what role alcohol played in the attack, police confirm some family members reported Jesk had been behaving strangely and "pointing guns at people" since being discharged from the Army on January 13. But Jesk attorney says he is not convinced his client is suffering from post-traumatic stress.

"I know from time to time he had been upset. A lot of young men that are coming back from Iraq have been upset from the things that are going on over there. But I'm not so sure it had anything to do with this situation," said Clancy.

Clancy did request and a judge did order a psychiatric evaluation for Jesk -- in part because police remain concerned about him committing suicide.

Police officers recovered the gun used in the attack and a knife they found in Jesk's pocket when he was arrested.

The court also issued an order of protection against Jesk -- so, just in case he makes bail, he is forbidden from any contact with his children or his wife's parents.