When Naperville police officers came out to Quin Court late last Oct. 30 for a well-being check, they heard frightening sounds. It turned out the noise was coming from a horror movie being watched, the volume cranked up high, in a home adjacent to the one they came out to check.
The officers did not yet know their destination was the real house of horrors.
Inside the northwest side townhome, the body of a 7-year-old boy lay on the floor in an upstairs bedroom. On the bed next to him was the body of a 5-year-old girl whom the mother had been babysitting. Each child had bled to death after being stabbed dozens of times.
Naperville resident Elzbieta Plackowska, 41, remains in DuPage County Jail without bond. She is accused of murdering her son, Scott Elementary School second-grader Justin Plackowski, and Olivia Dworakowski, a kindergartner at Brookdale Elementary School, that night a year ago, when two family dogs also were stabbed to death.
In 182 pages of police reports obtained by The Sun through the Freedom of Information Act, details emerge of what Plackowska and others said in comprehensive interviews following the grisly killings. The many statements taken by police shed new light on a brutal crime that stunned the community.
Police found no signs of life at the Quin Court home after Olivia’s mother, Marta Dworakowski, called for help when she returned home from work shortly before 10 p.m., as usual, and found her house deadbolt-locked and the babysitter’s car gone. Less than 90 minutes later, officers responding to a reported robbery in progress on Violet Circle, a couple of miles south of Dworakowski’s home, found Plackowska’s white Mazda SUV in the driveway and Plackowska curled up in a fetal position on a friend’s family room floor, her hands and arms apparently covered with dried blood. Outside the home, a bloodied knife was discovered under the front seat of the SUV. Another large knife, believed to have been used in the killings, was later found in the kitchen sink of the home on Quin Court.
It was 11:26 p.m. when officers entered the Dworakowskis’ townhouse.
Initially Plackowska only mumbled incoherently when police asked her questions, but eventually she told them a black-clad intruder had killed the children after slipping into the townhome while she was outside smoking a cigarette — despite her pleas that he take her life instead. Interviewed in the emergency room at Edward Hospital later, she gave a statement to the contrary.
“Elzbieta looked at the ceiling and said, ‘Today was a happy day,’ with a smile on her face,” the police report states. “Elzbieta stated that there was no excuse for what she did earlier and it was ‘the worst thing anyone could have done.’”
She continued that she “saw the devil” that day and “went crazy,” telling authorities she was exhausted from working at several jobs, had been sleeping just two or three hours each night, and was frequently left with all of the household and parenting duties because her husband, long-distance truck driver Artur Plackowski, is often away.
“Elzbieta looked straight at me and said, ‘Make sure I don’t get out in 10 years from jail or a nuthouse,’” the report continued. “Elzbieta looked at her bloody hands and said, ‘I got my kid’s blood on my hands and I can’t cry.’”
A second detective questioning Plackowska at the hospital reported that she initially reiterated the account of a man in black perpetrating the massacre, but then she changed the story again.
“This world is so poisoned … I didn’t kill them, I saved them,” she said.
In a third police interview at the hospital, Plackowska reportedly told police she had taken Justin, Olivia and the Plackowskis’ dog, Tootsie, to St. Elizabeth Seton Church for a reconciliation confession service the evening of the killings. The church priest later told detectives that Plackowska spoke to him at length, and he finally interrupted her and gave her a blessing to end the conversation.
A parishioner who also attended the service told police that Plackowska seemed flustered and agitated throughout the ceremony, and appeared to have spent most of the time in the church texting on her phone. The parishioner also said Justin began to cry after his mother became angry and scolded him in Polish.
The service might have been a turning point.
“After leaving church, Elzbieta made the decision while in her car driving (to Quin Court) that she was going to kill the children,” the detective wrote in his report.
She told investigators she was listening to gospel music on her iPod and the kids were playing with Tootsie and the Dworakowskis’ dog before the stabbings began. After telling the children to kneel on the floor and pray, in preparation to go to heaven that evening, Plackowska said she told Justin she thought “the devil is in him,” and she wanted him to die “perfectly.” And then, police say, she stabbed the boy dozens of times with a kitchen knife while he told his mother he loved her.
Plackowska told police that when she then turned to Olivia, the horrified little girl in the pink shirt with a panda on it didn’t comprehend what she had just seen. And then she uttered what apparently were her last words.
“What’s happen to you… you love me and you just kill me?” Plackowska reported the 5-year-old saying.
In more than seven additional hours of interviews at police headquarters on Oct. 31, she also told police she had noticed Justin’s eyes had begun to turn red, and that meant he had ties to the devil.
“Elzbieta talked about the killings and stated she killed 1, 2, 3, 4 Satans tonight … Elzbieta mentioned she wished to cause a quick death and felt like a killing machine while murdering both kids and dogs,” the report states.
Accounts given by others in police interviews hint at turmoil in the days leading to the crimes.
Artur Plackowski — who, like other family members, spells his surname differently from his wife — told detectives that his wife had developed a fascination with the late serial killer Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski, who favored an ice pick as a weapon and often froze his victims’ bodies.
Although he insisted she was “perfect” for him and their marriage was solid, Plackowski knew his wife resented the extended absences created by his time on the road. He told investigators he preferred short runs, but noted the long haul brings benefits.
“It pays more money, but I stay away from home longer and that we argue about much,” Plackowski said, according to police records that add he then paused, looked down and added, “That is why maybe she did this.”
The couple had encountered past money difficulties that led them to borrow from other family members, the documents say. When the loans were not repaid, the pair grew increasingly estranged from some of their relatives.
Plackowski also reported that his wife had “an alcohol problem” in the past, and that in a phone conversation on the afternoon before the killings, she told her husband “she had the devil inside of her.”
The couple also talked that afternoon about recent troubles with their older son, 20-year-old Matt, whom Plackowska had kicked out of the house the previous day because she wanted him to begin showing more responsibility. And they discussed her continuing struggle with grief after learning earlier in the month, via Facebook, that her father had died in Poland.
The police report said Plackowski “considered their dialogue as Elzbieta’s confession to him.”
Statements provided by Matt Plackowski suggest his mother appeared disoriented in the days before the stabbings.
“Elzbieta has been making several strange comments for the past 2-3 days about finding peace,” reads the account of an interview with the elder son. “She had made some suicidal statements but (Matt) believed that since his mother was Catholic, she would never actually commit suicide.”
However, statements from others in the carefully edited 182 pages of police records — which include 30 sheets of evidence technician reports with all of the data redacted — suggest they never suspected all was not well with Plackowska and her family. Some acquaintances interviewed by police described the suspect as very well groomed, cheerful and loving with children.
In the days leading up to the children’s deaths, acquaintances said, Plackowska related excitement about an upcoming birthday party for one of her sons. She was working to persuade cousins to visit from Poland, offering to pay their plane fare, and making plans for a New Year’s Eve party in the clubhouse at the Olive Tree Condominium complex, where Plackowska lived with her husband and sons.
The property manager at the condominium development related to police that Plackowska had come to a Halloween party in the clubhouse the previous week with Justin, who wore a police officer costume.
Due in court
Plackowska, who has entered a not guilty plea, has made several appearances in DuPage County court since her arrest, most recently on Sept. 20. She faces 12 felony charges, including 10 counts of murder in the first degree and two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals.
Her attorneys last spring requested extra time to gather medical and mental health reports about their client, and additional continuances have been granted since then. She is due back in Judge Robert G. Kleeman’s court room at 9 a.m. Nov. 8.
Serious crimes often take a long while to come to trial, as the process of discovery gradually unfolds. Marilyn Lemak — imprisoned for life without parole for drugging and smothering her three young children in their downtown Naperville home in 1999 — was sentenced nearly three years after the killings.
Police Chief Bob Marshall, a 30-year veteran of law enforcement, said last year’s murders were even worse than the Lemak case.
“This is the most gruesome and horrific crime scene I have seen,” he said.
Marshall related how just two months earlier, on her first day of kindergarten at Brookdale, Olivia went to the wrong classroom by mistake, and didn’t know how to find the place where she belonged. She was located, but not before police were called in to help with the search. The officers wound up joining her in the school cafeteria, thoroughly charmed by the tiny girl with long golden hair and green eyes.
The chief’s voice wavered as he spoke of a blameless child lost in a nightmarish rampage.
“She was such a sweet and loving little girl,” he said.