SYCAMORE – First Assistant State’s Attorney Stephanie Klein walked halfway across the courtroom, showed a misshapen frying pan to Michael G. Kulpin and looked him in the eye.
“This is not love,” Klein said Thursday during her closing statement in DeKalb County court. She then gestured to photos and other evidence of the night Kulpin, 22, killed his 19-year-old girlfriend, Moorea Des Roches.
“This is power. This is control, and it is first-degree murder,” she said.
After about 90 minutes deliberating, Chief Judge Robbin Stuckert agreed with Klein and found Kulpin, formerly of the 900 block of Kimberly Drive, guilty of first-degree murder.
Des Roches’ family and friends could be heard crying immediately after the verdict, and then they consoled one another in the courtroom, and then outside it after the room was cleared.
“I’m happy with the ruling, but it’s not going to bring her back,” Moorea’s mother, Susan Des Roches, said outside the courtroom after the verdict came down.
Kulpin, who opted not to testify, will be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. June 12. Because he was convicted of domestic violence in 2015 in Kane County for repeatedly punching Des Roches in the back seat of a woman’s car, he is facing 20 to 100 years in prison, and would have to serve the entire sentence.
Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Schwertley began the closing arguments by spelling out his best interpretation of how Kulpin killed Des Roches on
June 3, 2016, according to the oft-changing story Kulpin told police June 6, 2016, after he was arrested: The couple struggled, Kulpin beat her with a pan until the handle broke, and then stabbed her and cut her about 27 times.
“The fact that there are three separate instances where the defendant is pushing, striking and stabbing Moorea goes to his intent to kill her,” Schwertley said.
Kulpin’s lawyer, Dan Transier, asked Stuckert to convict Kulpin of second-degree murder because Kulpin could have been provoked by Des Roches. He said DeKalb police detective Mark Nachman didn’t interview Kulpin thoroughly enough when he said he was angry because of “guys and lies” he’d seen on Facebook. Transier argued that Des Roches could have instigated the fight, and that it was an unprompted crime of passion.
Klein reminded Stuckert that Kulpin told police he was texting Des Roches’ parents while he killed her, in between him beating and stabbing her, and that he told them he was taking care of his and Des Roches’ 1-year-old son.
“At that point, he’s not out of control; he’s supremely in control,” Klein said.
Klein pointed out that not only did the pan’s handle break, but that the handle of the knife, which Kulpin characterized as bigger than a steak knife with a serrated edge, broke as he stabbed Des Roches.
“Consider the force, and what this said to the defendant’s intent, the amount of force the defendant must have been using to break that knife,” Klein said.
Klein also said in her summation that Kulpin told police Des Roches came to, after being beaten senseless, and asked what happened, at which point, Kulpin said he didn’t know – and then stabbed her in her stomach to “put her out of her misery,” as he told police.
After Kulpin killed Des Roches on June 3, 2016, he ditched his clothes and the knife in a dumpster outside the apartment. He took their son to a St. Charles motel before texting Des Roches’ parents the next day, pretending to be Moorea as he arranged dropping off the baby.
Then he went back to his apartment and cleaned.
He wrapped Des Roches in a tablecloth, fitted sheet and shower curtain liner, and moved her from the bathroom to the adjacent bedroom intended for his son. Video taken by police and shown during the trial shows he used a large, brown teddy bear to cover up a blood stain, and it was only when police knocked on his door Sunday night – after he’d driven into Chicago twice to obtain heroin – that he dashed into the bedroom to stuff Des Roches’ body into the closet.
Mitra Kalelkar, a former Cook County chief medical examiner who performed Des Roches’ autopsy, said that of the knife wounds, 13 were stabs, 14 cuts or slashes, and that Des Roches’ kidney was punctured three times, one of her lungs once. Kalelkar said Des Roches had three significant cuts on her head from blunt-force trauma.
When questioned by Transier as to whether those injuries could have been caused by her slipping and hitting her head on the tub, as Kulpin claimed she had in his statement to police, Kalelkar said they had to have been “inflicted” injuries.
During his closing statement, Schwertley described what Des Roches must have gone through, as her left-handed boyfriend beat her with a frying pan, bruising her arms with what Kalelkar described as defensive injuries.
“As he’s striking her, she’s blocking,” Schwertley said. “She’s trying to save her own life.”
Safe Passage of DeKalb County urges anyone concerned about domestic violence to call its hotline at 815-756-5228.