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Illinois Appellate Court denies new trial for Granat

regional john granat

John Granat. (Photo from Illinois Department of Corrections)

Convicted in 2017 of murdering parents in unincorporated Palos Park

By Dermot Connolly

The Illinois Appellate Court has denied a request for a new trial filed by former Stagg High School student John Granat, who was convicted in 2017 of killing his parents in their home in unincorporated Palos Park.

Granat was 17 when prosecutors said he killed his parents, John, 44, and Maria, 42, at their home in the 12700 block of 81st Avenue on Sept. 11, 2011.

Currently in Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, he is serving a life sentence after being convicted of their murders in 2017.

His friend and co-defendant, Christopher Wyma, of Bridgeview, also received a life sentence for beating the couple to death with baseball bats on his orders.

Also convicted of involvement in the crime were Ehab Qasem, 19, of Hickory Hills, who received a 40-year sentence for one murder after testifying against the other two. Mohammad Salahat, 16, of Chicago Ridge, and a student at Oak Lawn Community High School at the time, was the driver. He did not enter the house and received a 35-year sentence for his role.

None of the other convicted parties has appealed their cases.

Granat claimed in his appeal that the trial judge, Neil Lenihan, erred by denying motions to quash his arrest and suppress evidence obtained without a search warrant.

In a judgment delivered Jan. 14, Appellate Court Presiding Judge Fitzgerald Smith found that the “trial court properly denied defendant’s motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence where there was sufficient probable cause for defendant’s warrantless arrest, as the totality of the circumstances present to police at the time justified belief that his parents were murdered and that he was the perpetrator.”

Appellate justices Aurelia Pucinski and Terrence Lavin concurred.

In the decision, the judges detailed the evidence that led to Granat’s arrest and the search of the house. This included the testimony by lead investigator, Cook County Sheriff’s Detective Stephen Moody, who described the crime scene as “violent and bloody” and “ransacked.” But because there was no sign of forced entry, he believed the perpetrator was “someone who had permission to be in the home” and Granat was the only person inside.

Moody also pointed out that Granat had lied about his whereabouts, saying he slept through the incident and called 911 after finding his parents dead when he went upstairs to wake them for church. But he had been actually been stopped at 5:18 a.m. that morning by Palos Heights police, with chlorine in the car. He said the chlorine was for his pool, but there was no pool at his house.

Investigators said they found his demeanor to be unusually calm and emotionless for someone who had just found his parents “violently murdered.” “Unusual.” They said he also never asked about what happened to his parents.

The court found Granat’s argument that his arrest was based on a “vague hunch” and “illegal ‘expedition for evidence’ “to be completely meritless.”

They said the evidence considered also included the fact that Granat was carrying $5,000 in cash at the time of his arrest, inconsistencies in his 911 call, and the fact that he was wearing brand-new pants with the size tag still on them when police came to the house.

“While defendant might be correct that each individual fact and circumstance here, standing alone, may not confer probable cause, this is not the proper way to analyze the legal question at hand. In other words, to determine whether probable cause existed at the time of defendant’s arrest to believe that a crime was committed and that he committed that crime, a review of the totality of the circumstances presented must be undertaken, not simply select pieces of the whole,” said Smith in the ruling. “When that is done in the instant cause, it is clear, in all practicality and common sense, that probable cause indeed existed at the time of defendant’s arrest.”

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