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Winnetka Man Found Guilty of Killing of Childhood Friend

Final arguments lasted three hours on Tuesday at the Skokie courthouse. The case ended in a guilty verdict for the defendant, according to Winnetka police.

Courtroom No. 206 was hushed on Tuesday morning. Under dim fluorescent lighting, a week-long trial took its final bows before the jury left to determine a verdict for a Winnetka man accused of murder.

Later on Tuesday afternoon, David Kraybill, 50, was found guilty of first-degree murder of a childhood friend, Joel Cacharelis, 40, also of Winnetka. In February 2003, the victim was found facedown, with seven bullet wounds to the head and three bullet wounds on the back, on Forestway Drive beside the Skokie Lagoons. The jury also found Kraybill guilty of personally discharging a firearm that caused the death of the victim, according to police.

"We are very satisfied with the criminal justice procedure," said Chief Patrick Kreis in an interview before the jury's final verdict. "The investigation was done very thoroughly."

Extra Winnetka Police Coverage:

This was the second time Kraybill sat in judgment for the 2003 murder. He was convicted in 2006, and was originally sentenced to 65 years in prison, according to the Chicago Tribune. But the Illinois Appellate Court overturned the conviction due to improper court proceedings, and the case reopened last Tuesday, Oct. 18.

One week later, the 12 jury members and two substitutes sat stonily, while the defense attorneys and the prosecuting attorneys made their cases from 10 a.m. to about 1 p.m. Kraybill, sitting beside his attorneys, looked straight ahead with little emotion registering on his face.

Prosecution's Final Statement

Michele Gemskie, assistant state's attorney, began the closing statements with a summary of the incidents surrounding the evening of the crime, Feb. 24, 2003.

Gemskie highlighted the evidence used against Kraybill: a glove found at the crime scene with DNA matching Kraybill's DNA, his fingerprint on the door of Cacharelis’s car, and footprints with a triangular design at the crime scene that matched those at Cacharelis's house, on the 800 block of Oak Street. Ammunition used to kill the victim matched the type found inside Kraybill's house in Wisconsin.

The prosecutors alleged that Kraybill visited the victim's home before the two friends left together, after which Kraybill killed Cacharelis. Gemskie said that the victim's mother testified that Kraybill visited their home that evening, and according to Gemskie, seemed uncharacteristically brittle with her.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you all have your common sense," said Gemskie. "There is direct and circumstantial evidence [to prove Kraybill's guilt]."

Defense's Final Statement

Douglas Johnson, Kraybill's defense attorney, followed Gemskie's statement with about one hour and 30 minutes of step-by-step dismissal of the evidence that the prosecution presented.

"The law protects everyone," Johnson said. "Millions and millions of guns could have killed Cacharelis, and millions and millions of shoes could have [fit the footprints]."

The defense attorney cast doubt on the testimony of Cacharelis' mother and suggested that the detective work in the case was inaccurate. In particular, one officer's testimony was discussed because he did not take notes during interviews.

Johnson questioned the footprints evidence and used chicken take-out, found in a nearby trash can on the crime scene, as evidence of Kraybill's innocence, for it did not match his DNA.

Prosecuting Rebuttal

"The defendant must be the unluckiest man in the world," said Assistant State's Attorney Ethan Holland, who gave the closing rebuttal. Holland said the idea that the "mountains of evidence were just coincidences [is] utter nonsense."

Holland argued that the evidence made Kraybill's guilt reasonable beyond doubt, and also asked the jury members to use their common sense.

"This is Joel's day for justice," he concluded.

Reaction from Kraybill's Mother

Dianne Lahti, 76, sat alone during the three-hours of statements. Kraybill's mother now lives in Ashtabula, OH. with her husband. For 33 years they lived in Winnetka, three blocks down from the Cacharelis' home, she said.

"They have no real evidence," said Lahti after the statements. "He suffered unfairly. I think he was just someone to dump on."

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karen Kennedy October 26, 2011 at 06:58 PM
What is the motive?
Carrie Porter October 26, 2011 at 09:14 PM
Hi Karen, It wasn't included in the closing arguments.
Glenn Wall October 27, 2011 at 12:20 AM
Was a motive included in the trail? I thought I heard somewhere it wasn't.
Glenn Wall October 27, 2011 at 12:21 AM
That is ONE wasn't.
karen Kennedy October 27, 2011 at 01:34 AM
This is a re-trial. Surely during the first trial almost a decade ago, a motive was mentioned. I have vague recollections of a drug dispute. Heck a Winnetka murder? Where did these guys go to school: public or private. Are their friends still around? TV pretends there is an audience at murder trails. That's rare. It's usually 2 sad moms and their supporters. Are old buddies in the audience? Anyone? I gotta million questions.
Glenn Wall October 27, 2011 at 01:50 AM
I recall the first trail's coverage said there was a letter indicating that the defendant was angry at the victim. But that really wasn't a motive, and they would have had a motive in the re-trail if there was one. The victim was killed, if I recall correctly, the day after his lawyer was in court asking that the case (burglary, I think) against his client be tossed and it was like the 3rd time the lawyer made that request after an extended period of time. That was curious timing. Kraybill and his family had left the state decades prior. The victim was not in touch with many of his former schoolmates as far as I know. I'm one of them and know many of them. They both went to New Trier.
John Brown October 28, 2011 at 12:02 AM
Karen, No motive was presented in either trial. It was unnecessary. It would have clouded the case the state was presenting and would have done more harm to their case than good.No one knows for sure why David killed Joel. Most people have theories. I have mine. It basically involves the fact that Joel was a thief. A burglar. Found to have keys to a number of homes in Winnetka. Winnetka was, might still be, a place where people put a spare house key in a very obvious "hiding spot". Joel had 340~360K in cash in a safety deposit box. David, despite being married and employed in Madison, somehow found the time and desire to come visit Joel for a few hours every 4-5 weeks. Fencing stolen property. Division of the spoils argument. A threat from Joel to squeal on David's role. Davids being manipulated by Joel for so long the resentment and anger boiled over. We all have a million questions too. David knows all the answers and he's got nothing to say.
David Schmidt November 01, 2011 at 08:32 PM
How can they be "childhood" friends. They were ten years apart in age.
John Brown November 01, 2011 at 09:54 PM
Cacharelis was 40 when he was killed, in Feb 2003. That was fairly close to 9 years ago. 40 plus 9 equals 49. Kraybill is listed as 50 but he's actually 49. His birthdate is October 18, 1962, so he turned 49 a few weeks ago. When you die you don't have any more birthdays, David. :o(

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