(WGN-AM)- A 57-year-old Harwood Heights man about to go on trial on charges he beat his wife to death with a hammer four years ago on a River Forest sidewalk pleaded guilty today to first-degree murder and first-degree murder where there is an order of protection.
Jury selection was to begin today at the Cook County courthouse in Maywood in the trial of James Pender. He was accused of killing his wife, 41-year-old Therese Pender, in March 2005.
Therese Pender was seeking a divorce from her husband and had taken out an order of protection against him in December 2004, three months before her death. The order was extended in January 2005.
Because the order was still in effect when she was killed, prosecutors had said they were going to seek the death penalty if Pender had gone to trial and was convicted. Illinois law has allowed the death penalty to be sought in such instances since 1999.
In court documents related to her order of protection, Therese Pender stated her relationship with Pender "has been a history of physical, mental, emotional abuse from the beginning." James Pender had threatened to kill her if she obtained an order of protection, she said.
In January 2005, James Pender was questioned by Union Pacific railroad police after he was spotted following his wife in the Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago, officials said. The police did a background check and found the order of protection had been taken out against him, but the order did not say by whom, a railroad spokeswoman said after the slaying. Pender was let go with a warning after he apparently convinced the officers the order of protection did not involve Therese Pender, the spokeswoman said.
Shortly after Pender was released, Metra police called Therese Pender by phone and alerted her to the incident. An arrest warrant eventually was issued for Pender, who in early 2005 was living in his car, authorities said.
On March 16, 2005, two months after being questioned and released, James Pender followed his estranged wife from the River Forest train station, authorities said. She had been living with friends in that western suburb. Shortly after 6 p.m., police said, James Pender attacked her with a 15½-inch cross-peen hammer in the 500 block of Park Avenue.
James Pender was found with the hammer walking on nearby railroad tracks and was arrested, police said. He has been in custody ever since and found fit to stand trial by Circuit Court Judge Thomas Tucker, who would have presided over the trial.
(The Chicago Tribune contributed to this story)
Get the latest news at the top and bottom of every hour on News/Talk 720, WGN
Man Switches Plea To Guilty as Murder Trial Begins
Man Beat Wife To Death With Hammer Four Years Ago
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.