|New details in Harvey case
Suspect weighed killing 4th victim, authorities say
By Jo Napolitano and Rick Jervis
Tribune staff reporters
Published December 3, 2004
A Harvey man charged with murdering his mother, wife and infant son considered killing a woman he brought home for sex during the weekend, but decided to let her go, prosecutors said in court Thursday.
At a hearing in which bail was denied for Martin Kracht, 24, an aunt who helped raise him portrayed him as agitated Saturday over his mother's deteriorating mental health and his wife's desire to leave the area with their child.
Police say he strangled his mother, Barbara Baker-Kracht, 52, with a scarf Saturday. They say he killed his wife, Vinese Bell-Kracht, 21, and their son, 11-month-old Emery Kracht, the next day.
In a Markham courtroom, prosecutors said Kracht contemplated killing an unidentified woman Saturday night while his mother's body lay hidden in a closet.
Christine Opp, assistant state's attorney, said the woman refused to have sex with Kracht.
"He considered killing her, but he didn't," Opp said. "Instead, he took her to a bus stop the next morning."
Police had not yet tracked down the woman, who might be on the outer ring of Kracht's social circle, said Sandra Alvarado, a spokeswoman for the Harvey Police Department.
"She was a friend of a friend of his," she said. "I'm sure she's at home watching TV saying, `Holy cow.'"
Opp also said Kracht confessed the killings to a friend who did not believe him, so he invited the friend to look at the bodies. The friend did so.
Kracht then drove the friend home and the friend gave him a pad and paper to write a suicide note. Kracht left and drove to his aunt's house. He parked the car in the garage, closed the garage door and left the engine running, Opp said.
He used his wife's cell phone to call his ex-girlfriend and admit the killings, she said. He then called a relative and confessed again, Opp said.
Kracht, who is said to have told police he also ingested rat poison, is on suicide watch in Cook County Jail's Cermak Hospital. He is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing Dec. 22.
"At this stage my client is presumed innocent," said defense attorney John Wilson. "Allegations are not fact. They are simply allegations."
Family members say Kracht had grown increasingly troubled in recent months, frustrated that he could not find a job, concerned that he could not take care of his family, worried about his wife moving out of state with his son.
Friends and family say Kracht had a troubled childhood and that his mother suffered from mental illness.
Diane Jackson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, said Kracht was a ward of the state for 11 years, starting in June 1989. She said he had a sister, who was adopted at age 10 in 1994. Details about the DCFS cases were not immediately available, she said.
Gloria Baker, Kracht's aunt, said her sister was incapable of taking care of Kracht because of her illness. His mother often would miss work, stay home and keep Kracht with her, Baker said.
Baker eventually became Kracht's foster parent and he lived with her for more than 10 years, leaving when he was in his late teens, she said.
She described Kracht as a humble, mild-mannered kid who was academically successful but lacked motivation.
"He couldn't hold a job, wouldn't leave the house," she said. "Martin could have been anything he wanted, but he didn't have the drive."
Baker said her nephew visited her house Saturday, looking as though something were on his mind.
"He said his mother was sick again and that they might lose the house because she wasn't going to work," she said. "He said, `I can't stand to see her like that again, and my wife is leaving me. She's leaving the state and taking the baby with her.'"
Baker told him not to worry. She gave him a plate of spaghetti and meatballs and some cake, and he left.
"I would've never dreamed he would've done anything like this," she said. "We're all still mourning."
Shaun Winston, Vinese's Bell-Kracht's brother, said the family is struggling to come to terms with the deaths of his sister and nephew.
"This coward took their lives for no reason," he said. "He deserves punishment."
Thaddeus Bibbs, a church elder at Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses Church, said Kracht was "disfellowshiped" in November, meaning that he could attend services but could not socialize with other members. Bibbs would not divulge specifics.
"Martin had received a lot of suggestions, a lot of counsel," he said. "But a person has to be willing to really pay attention to the counsel that may be given."
He said the church was shocked by the killings.
"This proved to be something very tragic, something we really couldn't see happening," he said. "It just floored us all."
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