Iraq war veteran gets 17 years for killing his wife

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by Bob Jaderberg

An Oak Lawn man who returned home alive after serving in Iraq, only to murder his young wife, was sentenced last week to 17 years in prison.

Joseph J. Jesk, 24, pled guilty Dec. 14 to second-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife, Heather, in 2010. Cook County Judge John Hynes sentenced Jesk to 17 years in prison.

Jesk shot Heather in the forehead shortly before 11 p.m. Feb. 27, 2010, in the basement of the home they shared in the 4600 block of 101st Street. An argument that began as the couple returned from a benefit continued as they went down into the basement, and a short time later Jesk shot his wife and mother of the couple’s two small children. Heather dies at the scene, according to police.

Jesk left the house on foot and shortly thereafter called police to say he needed to turn himself in. Oak Lawn police officers found Jesk and arrested him around 11:10 p.m. near the Metra station, 9525 Tully Ave.

“I’ve just killed the only person in the world I loved,” Jesk reportedly told police.

Two weeks after the killing, a grand jury indicted Jesk on six counts of first-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty to that charge in April, and his attorneys had since been working with the state’s attorney’s office, Jesk’s attorney Michael F. Clancy said Monday.

Alcohol use, depression and unspecified issues not properly addressed by the military prior to Jesk’s discharge a month before he killed Heather factored into the lesser charge, Clancy said. The major question in Jesk’s case was whether there was clear evidence he intended to kill his wife, Clancy said. Jesk has shown remorse for the killing, Clancy added, noting Jesk’s phone call to police moments after the shooting.

“[At the hearing] he turned and faced her parents as well as his own and apologized,” Clancy said. “He also apologized to his children, the court and to me.”

Jesk, who has served 22 months in prison since the shooting, will likely serve about six years in prison, Clancy said. The Illinois Department of Corrections operates on a day-for-a-day policy, meaning convicts can earn a day off their sentences for each day served. Jesk’s two daughters, one 11 months and the other 2 years old when Heather was killed, will be about 8 and 10 years old upon their father’s release.

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