Jury acquits son accused of killing father in Burlington Township
A Kane County jury took less than three hours Tuesday to acquit a man of the most serious charges filed after the death of his father in February 2016.
Daniel R. Rak was accused of punching his father in a fight and causing bleeding on his brain that killed him days later in his Burlington Township home.
Rak, 31, hugged Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress after the jury found him not guilty of first-degree murder and the alternate, lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Rak, who had been held at the Kane County jail since his arrest in June 2016 on charges of first-degree murder of Jeffrey Rak, 56, was convicted of aggravated domestic battery, a felony.
"The only thing we both expressed was a huge sigh of relief -- it's over," Childress said afterward. "He hasn't really had a chance to deal with his father's death. He's going to have a lot of things to focus on now."
Rak's defense team wiped away tears after Rak was allowed to hug his mom, who traveled from Arizona for the trial. "The pressure of really believing your client is innocent -- we were all emotional for that reason. It became very personal for us," Childress said.
Prosecutors argued during the six-day trial before Judge D.J. Tegeler that Daniel Rak was angry because his father, a former veterinarian and severe alcoholic, walked in on the son's girlfriend taking a bath and saw her naked.
Rak told authorities he went into his father's bedroom, which was filthy and littered with empty vodka bottles, the night of Feb. 11 and "hucked" the bottle at his dad, who was lying in bed. Rak told authorities he punched his dad at least twice in the face, leaving his dad's nose bloodied.
The next morning, which was a Friday, Rak said he and his dad talked and made up. Daniel Rak discovered his dad's body about 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 14. Prosecutors argued that Daniel Rak knew of his father's ailments, which also included seizures and an instance in 2010 when he was hospitalized for bleeding on the brain, or a subdural hematoma.
Prosecutors noted that two forensic pathologists concluded that injuries from the fight caused a large subdural hematoma that weighed about 2 ounces, and the swelling put pressure on his brain that killed him.
Childress argued that authorities called to the elder Rak's home on Engel Road near Sycamore in the early morning hours of Feb. 14 immediately jumped to the conclusion that Daniel Rak killed his father.
Childress contended that investigators had tunnel vision in thinking that Jeffrey Rak's death was a homicide and didn't save or test tissue samples from his body that could have shown he died from heart disease or that something else, such as a fall, restarted the bleeding on his brain.
Childress also noted that her defense expert said the hematoma was at least three days old or more, and based on when authorities estimated the father's time of death, an injury could have occurred on Feb. 10, 2016, or earlier, which is contrary to the state's case.
"This entire investigation was a comedy of errors, but it wasn't funny," Childress said in her closing argument.
Rak faced 20 to 60 years in prison if convicted of murder. The aggravated domestic battery carries a punishment ranging from three to seven years in prison, but probation is an option. Rak was expected to be released from jail late Tuesday night on a personal recognizance bond and will be sentenced on Sept. 8.