MADISON COUNTY, Illinois — The man accused of stabbing a prominent Metro East attorney to death and tying up his teenaged children during a robbery pleaded guilty to murder and other charges Tuesday morning -- minutes before opening statements were to begin in his trial.
Timothy Banowetz pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and two counts of armed robbery in the death of Randy Gori.
The plea deal was reached quickly and was unexpected, said Madison County State's Attorney Thomas Haine.
"Nothing like facing a jury of your peers to focus the mind," Haine told 5 On Your Side.
Banowetz was accused of killing Gori in his Edwardsville estate in January 2020 along with tying up Gori's two children, who were 13 and 15 at the time, with zip ties.
Beth Gori, Randy Gori’s wife, provided the following statement exclusively to 5 On Your Side Tuesday night:
"We are so grateful for the support we have been shown by our family, friends, and community. Your prayers and thoughts have been so appreciated. My children can finally have some peace knowing the person who killed their father and attacked them will hopefully never leave prison. I am hoping Randy can finally be at peace."
Prosecutors outlined what the evidence would have proven had the trial proceeded, revealing new details about the investigation.
Those details included how Gori wasn't the only wealthy person Banowetz researched before carrying out his plan, how a witness interrupted the robbery and her dogs chased Banowetz away.
Haine said Banowetz had a $10,000 tuition bill coming due nine days after the murder for his pharmacy schooling and didn't know how he was going to pay it. So, he began plotting to rob and kill a wealthy person to get it, Haine said.
"Greed and envy in a warped mind caused a terrible and cold-blooded murder for money," Haine said.
Banowetz sat stoically before the judge as she explained how he was waiving his right to a trial by pleading guilty. She will set a sentencing hearing once a pre-sentencing report is complete.
Haine said prosecutors are seeking the maximum sentence of 60 years for the murder charge and 10 years for the armed robbery charges for a total of 70 years.
"We're not giving him much," Haine said during a press conference following the hearing, noting Banowetz is 30 years old.
Haine emphasized prosecutors agreed to the plea deal only with the blessing of the Gori family, who can now "avoid the trauma of reliving this crime."
Haine said prosecutors were standing ready for trial with more than 200 exhibits and said the trial would have been a "tour de force on what a proper investigation looks like."
"The evidence in this case is simple and it is terrible," Haine said.
By pleading guilty, Banowetz also admitted to the following facts:
-- Banowetz researched Gori and his family for months on his computer, looking at pictures of Gori and his children on their social media accounts.
-- Banowetz's computer records showed he looked at pictures of the Gori family at about 4 a.m. Dec. 27, 2019, and 45 minutes later, looked at a set of binoculars he used to watch his victims before attacking them.
-- Dec. 30, 2019, Banowetz googled, "What does $1 million look like?", zip ties, fake guns and Gori's home address.
-- Gori's children told investigators they had just returned from dinner when a man ran toward them with what looked like a gun on Jan. 4, 2020. The man ordered them into the house through the garage.
-- The children told police the attacker then took all of their cellphones and Gori's wallet along with $4,000 cash from the kitchen.
-- Banowetz was also captured on Gori's security cameras during the crime. Investigators say his shoes matched the shoes the man was wearing in the surveillance video at Gori's house.
-- Police believe a witness who traveled with two large German Shepherds arrived at the home and interrupted the robbery. Banowetz "grew enraged that his plan was falling apart and viciously stabbed Mr. Gori to death," Haine said. Banowetz also tried attacking the witness, but the dogs protected her and she called 911. Police sources have told 5 On Your Side that witness was Gori's girlfriend who was coming to meet his children for the first time as he was moving forward with a divorce. Haine emphasized Tuesday Gori's actions saved the lives of his children that day because he was able to lure Banowetz to another room away from his children long enough to buy time for his girlfriend to arrive and distract the killer.
"He showed courage and resilience in the middle of a nightmare," Haine said of Gori.
-- Banowetz then stole Gori's 2020 Rolls Royce SUV and drove it to a nearby property where he had parked his truck. That property owner had already called a tow service and had the truck towed away believing it had been abandoned.
-- Prosecutors say the truck had a hardcopy of a Google map of Gori's house. Investigators found footprints from the truck toward Gori's house.
-- Banowetz walked out of the woods and into officers combing the area for clues about the killer, telling them he couldn't find his truck. He was wearing a bloody shirt, which later proved to be Gori's blood.
-- A piece of paper Haine called "a to-do list" fell out of Banowetz's pocket with instructions on how he was planning to carry out the murder written on it. It read: "Watch them with binoculars. Use the gun and knife to subdue them. Zip tie their hands. Make them withdraw $4 to $6 million from the bank. Kill all of them. Burn their bodies. Burn the house."
-- Once in custody, Banowetz told police, "I don't think you need me to make a statement, you already have all that you need."
-- Gori was found dead with his hands bound with zip ties. The children's hands were also bound.