Crest Hill man gets 39 years for killing wife with her own car

JOLIET (STMW) - A southwest suburban man was sentenced to 39 years in prison Thursday for the murder of his wife after he rammed her with her own car and stomped on her head.

Jerry Nichols, 64, was found guilty of the murder of his wife after a jury trial in September, according to a statement from the Will County state’s attorney’s office. The jury deliberated for two hours.

Nichols was in the garage of his Crest Hill home when he rammed his wife, Diane Nichols, twice with her own car on Jan. 26, 2013, according to prosecutors. “The victim was slammed into the rear wall of the garage with a force great enough to crack wall studs,” according to the statement.

While she was on the ground, Nichols stomped on her head and fractured her jaw and skull and damaged the cartilage in her throat, prosecutors said.

Nichols made a 911 call from the garage reporting his wife’s death as an accident. The first paramedic to arrive at the scene saw Nichols stomp on his wife’s head and called out, “What are you doing?”

Nichols gave investigators multiple versions of what happened to his wife, saying at first that his foot slipped off the brake while he was warming up his car, then claiming that he jerked the car toward her several times as a joke, according to the statement.

Nichols had been planning to kill his wife for months, prosecutors said at the trial. Computer forensic evidence showed he had done online research about poisons that are difficult to detect. That included ricin made from castor beans, potassium cyanide and nicotine. Nichols had purchased castor beans online and had them delivered to his workplace, prosecutors said.

Judge David Carlson sentenced Nichols to 39 years in prison Thursday.

“This heartless coward chose to end an 11-year marriage to an innocent woman who loved him by murdering her in cold blood,” State’s Attorney James Glasglow said in the statement. ”The conviction and sentence secured by my prosecutors guarantee that Jerry Nichols will die behind the walls of a state prison for this vicious act of brutality.”

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