Czech community mourns suburban murder victim

April 15, 2011 (OAK BROOK, Ill.)

Thirty-six-year-old Jitka Vesel was shot and killed after attending a meeting in Oak Brook on Wednesday. The suspect met Vesel through an online dating service.

Now we are learning more about Vesel. On Saturday, a celebration will be held for former Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, who was Czech-American. That celebration is happening thanks in part to Vesel's efforts. She immigrated to the U.S. when she was 9 and has been active is honoring Czech culture.

The Czech community is mourning Vesel's sudden death.

The Czechoslovak Heritage Museum is tucked along 22nd Street in Oak Brook. Vesel had been a museum curator. And, even when the museum couldn't afford to pay her, she continued volunteering. That's what she was doing Wednesday night. As she left a museum board meeting, Vesel was shot and killed.

"I'm stunned," said the museum's Cary Mentzer. "It's a terrible loss. She didn't seem to have an enemy in the world."

Demetry Smirnov has been charged with 1st degree murder. Prosecutors say the Canadian citizen meet Vesel through a dating website three years ago.

When Vesel renounced overtures, Smirnov persisted. threatening her, buying a gun, even tracking her with a GPS device and studying Illinois law before coming to Chicago.

"The defendant was aware that the death penalty had recently been abolished. So he knew then that he could go through with his plan," said DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin on Thursday.

Vesel had been a teacher, translator and most recently a property manager, all the while remaining active with the Czech community.

"Jitka was just awfully friendly, awfully helpful," said Mentzer. "She was a wonderful person, always bright and chipper, never down about anything."

In 2009, Vesel filed a report with police that Smirnov had been harassing her by telephone and internet.

Vesel has two brothers and a live-in boyfriend in the area. They had no comment and asked that for their privacy to be respeced.

The Czechoslovak Heritage Museum board will honor Vesel at some point-- but they are still shocked by the news.

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