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Susan Pastorello says she noticed a big change in the behavior of her husband, James, in 1998. That’s when the Elmhurst plant at which he had been a full-time dock worker for eight years closed down, leaving him unemployed.
He subsequently held down a variety of other jobs, including a 2 1/2-year full-time stint as a dock worker at another Elmhurst business. Most of Pastorello’s jobs, however, were of the part-time nature.
“When the plant closed in 1998, that’s when his depression filtered,” Pastorello said of her husband of the past eight years. “That’s when he started taking medication for his depression. They tried a lot of different medications with him, and he went to the doctor every month or so.”
Pastorello knows, probably better than anyone, that her husband has been battling depression. She says he has been taking two different medications for this problem, along with another medication for stomach problems.
Doesn’t believe it
But she still doesn’t believe he is capable of committing the crime with which he has been charged. James Pastorello, 49, of Northlake, was arraigned Thursday in the Maywood branch of Cook County Circuit Court. He pleaded not guilty to a charge of three counts of murder for allegedly killing his 88-year-old mother Aug. 20 in her Franklin Park home. Thursday’s court appearance was the first for Pastorello since a short hearing Sept. 12.
At Thursday’s arraignment, Judge Lawrence Terrell ordered a mental evaluation for Pastorello to determine if the defendant is fit to stand trial. His next court date is scheduled for Dec. 4.
“In order to further prepare his defense, I need a professional to determine if he is fit to stand trial,” said Thomas Glasgow, an Arlington Heights attorney representing Pastorello. “It needs to be determined if he was able to appreciate the criminality of the act.”
Franklin Park police contend that Pastorello killed his mother, Henrietta, following an argument with her. Police say Pastorello first hit his mother with his hand and then struck her in the head with a claw hammer, a blow that killed her.
Waits to call
The son called for an ambulance more than one hour after the incident allegedly took place, police said. He reportedly went home after the incident, showered and then returned to his mother’s home, at which time he made the call to police.
Susan Pastorello said she initially learned about the incident when she showed up at her mother-in-law’s home for dinner, just as she always had done on Wednesdays.
“We always had dinner there on Wednesdays. I would meet (James and Henrietta) there after I got off work (in Elk Grove Village),” she said. “I pulled up and saw police cars and I thought to myself, ‘Oh, my God, my mother-in-law has had a stroke.'”
Pastorello learned later that her mother-in-law had been murdered and her husband was charged in the crime.
“He doesn’t remember doing anything,” Susan Pastorello said of her husband. “He told me, ‘You know I’d never hurt mom.'”
Pastorello said her husband sometimes showed a temper, but never any signs of violence.
“I never understood how he kept a job because he can be very argumentative with people and very vocal,” she said. “If you set him off, he definitely had a temper, but his temper was mostly yelling.”
At times, Pastorello said, her husband, when on medication for depression, was anything but vocal.
“He has been drugged pretty good at times,” she said. “Sometimes he would be very quiet, non-responsive and depressed, with a very low energy level. There have been times when he would mostly just sleep all day.”
While her husband is being held in the medical unit at Cook County Jail, Pastorello said she takes things “one day at a time.”
“I’ve had a lot of support from my friends, family and church,” she said. “And my neighbors have been nice. I’ve been shaky over this, but I go on a day at a time.
“I don’t look at three years from now. That’s too scary.”