Thinking back on murder

2004-07-19T00:00:00Z Thinking back on murderMARK KIESLING
Times Columnist
July 19, 2004 12:00 am  • 

Once in awhile, I think about Dan Visnack and what he cost us. Not often, but once in awhile.

The 1981 murder trial of Visnack was the first one I covered. He was 21 years old then, accused of hiring two punks from Calumet City and Hammond to kill his wife of 10 weeks so he could get money to buy a motorcycle.

I wasn't much older than he was, or the two 17-year-olds he hired. All were convicted of murder, and the two teen killers were also convicted of raping Visnack's 19-year-old bride in their Calumet City apartment Aug. 9, 1979.

For some reason, I checked on him the other day. He's serving his life sentence at Menard Correctional Facility with no parole date. He's 45, and his prison photo shows a balding, bespectacled middle-age man with short-cropped blond hair going gray at the temples.

I was mildly shocked. For some reason, I expected him to still look 21, like he did when he sat at the defendant's table before Cook County Circuit Court Associate Judge Richard Samuels those 25 years ago.

Visnack's in for life. Co-defendant Randall Weidner, now 42, is in Centralia Correctional Center and is scheduled for parole June 24, 2019, when he will be 57.

James Kubik, now 41, is at the Illinois River Correctional facility, and is scheduled to be paroled Jan. 17, 2014. He will be 51.

Visnack's desire for the motorcycle from his wife's life insurance first and foremost cost Sharon Janiak Visnack her life. She died when Weidner and Kubik "broke into" the home when Visnack was at work, tied her up and suffocated her.

I'm certainly not here to shed tears for the defendants. I'm not sure I want Kubik or Weidner out among us in 2014 or 2019 or ever. Because of their rape convictions, both will have to register as sex offenders when and if released.

Visnack cost his family. His late father was a hard-working Lansing barber who died while his son was in prison.

For Wedner and Kubik, their decision to be pimply-faced hit men cost them the chance to grow up normally.

At 17, they were not adults but tried as such because of the horrible nature of the crime. They spent their 21st birthdays in prison. They're never going to be fathers, coach Little League or go to the graduation, confirmation or wedding of their children. They've never held a real job. Jimmy Carter was president when they went inside. No one had ever heard of AIDS, the Internet or e-mail. Spam was only a versatile meat product that came from Minnesota in a can.

And for you, the taxpayer, it's been a burden of staggering proportions. Illinois Department of Corrections Director Donald Snyder Jr. estimated it costs $23,812 annually to keep a prisoner in Illinois.

This means keeping Visnack, Kubik and Weidner in prison has already cost taxpayers $1,643,028, give or take. Kubik and Weidner, if paroled on time, will cost us $547,676 more. If Visnack lives to be 75, he'll cost us $714,360 more before he dies.

That's a grand total of $2,905,064.

That was one expensive motorcycle.

Kiesling's column solely represents the opinion of the writer and not necessarily that of The Times. Readers can reach Kiesling at or (219) 662-5330.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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