A Canadian man charged with methodically stalking and murdering a former girlfriend after first researching whether Illinois has the death penalty did something spontaneous Monday -- he told a DuPage County judge he wants to plead guilty.
But the announcement by 21-year-old Dmitry Smirnov was so surprising neither Judge Blanche Fawell nor prosecutors were ready to immediately accept his guilty plea.
Smirnov told his attorney only moments before his DuPage County court appearance that he wanted to admit to the April 13 shooting, a move that could send him to prison for life.
“I advised him not to do this, but he doesn’t have to take my advice,” Assistant Public Defender Steve Dalton said.
Smirnov had previously entered a not guilty plea.
Prosecutors asked for more time to notify relatives of Smirnov’s alleged victim, 36-year-old Jitka Vesel, whom authorities said briefly dated Smirnov in 2008.
Fawell rescheduled Smirnov’s hearing until Friday, though Dalton plans to meet with him before then to further discuss his legal options.
A guilty plea at this stage of such a serious case is unusual, Dalton said.
Veteran prosecutor David Bayer said he can’t recall a case in which a murder defendant publicly announced in court that he wanted to plead guilty.
"“Not that I’ve handled," Bayer said.
Smirnov, who lived near Vancouver, British Columbia, allegedly researched Illinois law to determine that the state had abolished the death penalty before he drove to the Chicago area.
He allegedly glued a GPS tracking device to Vesel’s car and followed her for several days before ambushing her as she left her job at a Czech fraternal organization in Oak Brook.
Smirnov is being held without bond in the DuPage County Jail.