EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – A Wentzville man has pled guilty in court today to murder and armed robbery charges for a heinous crime. Timothy M. Banowetz, 30, is charged with killing Illinois lawyer Randy Gori, zip-tying his family, robbing them, and stealing their vehicle.
Prosecutors say that greed and envy was the motivation in the murder. Banowetz owed $10,000 in tuition for a pharmacy school in St. Louis. If he did not pay then he would not be able to attend school.
Gori and Banowetz did not know each other. But, his internet search history also shows that he was researching other wealthy people.
Banowetz was facing ten charges, including first-degree murder, armed robbery, vehicle theft, and unlawful restraint in Gori’s death. He entered a guilty plea as the trial was set to begin. The plea bargain between him and the prosecution team was approved by Madison County Judge Kyle Napp.
The deal will help the Gori family heal without going through the trauma of a trial. The plea bargain included Banowetz pleading guilty to Count 1, First Degree Murder. The sentencing possibilities in that county include 20-60 years in prison. The state agreed to cap its request for the sentence to 60 years.
Banowetz also pleaded guilty to Counts 5 & 6. Those two counts carried a possible sentence of six to 10 years. The plea bargain gives him a day for day credit on those counts, and also allows them to be served concurrently. However, they must be served consecutive to the murder plea.
All other counts were dismissed via the plea arrangement. Banowetz will be sentenced at a later date. At sentencing, he will be allowed to address the court on his behalf.
“Nothing can heal the terror and loss Timothy Banowetz has caused to the Gori family and this entire community,” Haine said. “But at least today, we have some measure of justice, and some measure of closure.”
Police found Gori, 47, with his throat slit open and suffering from multiple stab wounds at his home on January 4, 2019, at around 9:00 pm on Mooney Creek Lane in Madison County Illinois. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
It started after Gori and his two children returned home after dinner. The teens told investigators that the suspect ran up to their father after they parked their SUV and claimed that he had a gun. He forced them all to the ground and bound them with zip ties. He searched their home and demanded money. He took their cellphones and their father’s wallet.
The family was held captive during the attack. Gori’s hands were bound behind his back with zip ties. His children’s hands were also zip-tied.
Video surveillance from the scene shows the suspect approaching the victims after they got home, forcing them to the ground, and going to search the home. Prosecutors say that he got around $4,000-$5,000 from the kitchen. They say he was actually carrying a fake gun and a military-style knife.
Gori’s children did not witness the killing, according to prosecutors. Banowetz led Gori away from the children.
A woman showed up at the scene in a vehicle and this disrupted the man’s plan. Prosecutors did not elaborate on exactly what happened after she showed up at the home. But, it may have saved the children’s lives.
Gori’s black 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV was also stolen.
Investigators found a black Ford F-150 truck abandoned near Gori’s home the next day. The license plates were removed from the vehicle and were inside the vehicle
A piece of paper with a Google map of the area was found inside the vehicle. The owner of the vehicle is Timothy Banowetz. The home where Gori was found dead is around 2,900 feet from where officers found the abandoned truck.
Banowetz came out of the woods to ask Major Case Squad investigators about his truck. The truck had been towed earlier that day. He told them that he was searching for his vehicle.
A note detailing the murder plan fell out when he was asked for identification. He was placed under arrest.
The to-do list said:
- Watch with binoculars from the woods.
- Use gun and knife to subdue.
- Ziptie hands and ductape mouth.
- Have withdraw 4-6 million from bank.
- Kill all of them and take zip ties and duct tape off.
- Burn bodies and house.
Gori’s stolen Rolls-Royce SUV was found abandoned around 1,000 feet from where Banowetz’s vehicle was found in the woods. Prosecutors say he had bloodstains on his clothing. Investigators later determined that it is Randy Gori’s blood. He had over $4,000 in cash on him and a note outlining preparations for the crime.
Investigators also say that Banowetz used the internet to research Gori and plan the murder. They have over 200 pieces of evidence that they were preparing to bring to the trial.
Prosecutors say Banowetz’s internet search history showed that he started investigating Gori in 2019. He started looking at Gori’s social media in December and looking at pictures of his family. He researched guns and the location of his home. He is also on video purchasing binoculars at Walmart.
Nothing indicates that there is anyone else involved in this murder. Banowetz did not unlock his phone for investigators to search. He says that he forgot the passcode.
The guilty plea makes it difficult to appeal this case. Prosecutors are arguing for a de-facto life sentence of 70-years. The state of Illinois does not have the death penalty.
Prosecutors will bring more evidence to the court appearance for sentencing.