Chicago Murder Trial Begins for Suicidal Blonde

They probably never saw her coming.

It was July 14, 2005. Lunch hour in Chicago.

Three local musicians who worked day jobs together at an audio electronics company were stopped at a traffic light in a Honda Civic in a suburb north of the city.

At a speed authorities estimated at 70 miles per hour, a former model who police said was trying to kill herself ran three red lights and slammed them from behind in her red Mustang convertible.

Both cars flew airborne on impact, witnesses said, each landing crushed upside down on the pavement.

The three young men died. The woman walked away with a broken ankle.

Today, more than two years later, her murder trial begins.

"Your mind is your worst enemy,'' Dave Meis, older brother of victim Douglas Meis, told ABC News Law & Justice unit Monday. "You hope and pray that they all died instantly but your mind just wonders how things all played out.''

"It was the worst day of my life,'' he said.

For a year after his brother's death, Meis said, every day felt "like a bad dream'' for him, his younger brother Scott and their parents, Ronald and Gail. The latter three traveled to Chicago this week for the trial. Also killed in the crash were Michael Dahlquist, 39, and John Glick, 35.

'Took Three Wonderful Lives'

"For such a long time it felt like something you see on the evening news, but say, 'That could never happen to me,' '' Meis said.

"The one thing that would have brought this thing to closure would have been had she been successful in what she set out to do that day,'' Meis said, referring to the alleged suicide attempt by an ex-model named Jeanette Sliwinski, then 23, the daughter of Polish immigrants.

Sliwinski's lawyers have denied that she was attempting suicide. Her current attorney did not return a call seeking comment on the case.

"She left this big, open-ended, ironic twist, in that she took three wonderful, beautiful lives and walked away with a broken ankle," Meis said. He said that his father was a Navy pilot and the family moved often.

"A lot of time when you move like that, your best friends become your brothers. We were a very close-knit family."

The crash and subsequent arrest brought Sliwinski Internet infamy. Many blogs and Web sites have posted modeling pictures of Sliwinski since she was arrested. (Click here for pictures.)

Monday, Sliwinski cried in court as her attorneys waived her right to a jury trial. The case will be heard by a county circuit court judge. Opening arguments are expected to begin Tuesday morning. Sliwinski faces three counts of first-degree murder and could face life in prison if convicted.

Begs Forgiveness

Police say Sliwinski told them she'd had a fight with her mother that day, and en route to a psychiatry appointment sought to kill herself. The young woman drove through three red lights at 70 mph, police and prosecutors said at the time.

The 2000 Ford Mustang hit the Honda Civic so hard it threw both cars into the air, each landing upside down, crushed against the pavement.

The depth of the tragedy has not been lost on Sliwinski. Four days after the crash, she released a statement from her hospital bed, where she was recovering from the ankle injury under police guard.

"I pray and beg for forgiveness from everyone who is saddened by the deaths,'' she said in the statement, on behalf of her and her parents, Ted and Ursula.

"If we had an explanation for what happened, we would tell you what it is, but we have no explanation,'' the statement continued.

"We have only our heartfelt grief and prayers. We are all praying for the families of these fine young men and for the many friends whose lives were touched by their music and love."

Sliwinski reportedly graduated from Columbia College, earning a degree in marketing and education in 2004. Her slender figure graced the pages of the Chicago's City Girls calendar in 2002 and 2003. She'd also done other modeling, including a Lee Jeans ad, a Frederick's of Hollywood lingerie show, and assorted trade shows, according to the Chicago Sun Times.

Sliwinski has been through several attorneys since her odyssey began, each of whom has argued in one form or another that she was suffering from mental problems at the time of the crash. At least five psychiatrists are expected to testify that she was insane at the time of the crash, the Sun Times reported.

Sergio Tovar described the scene that fateful day. Tovar, manager of Mattress World, heard a loud thud outside his store as he chatted with a client, according to a 2005 Sun Times report.

"A quarter of a second after that the [Mustang] was airborne,'' he told the newspaper. He said he ran outside carrying a pillow. He saw the Honda flipped over, he said at the time, with the rear end crushed into the back passenger seat.

There was a body in the middle of the road, Tovar said. And beside it was Sliwinski's car. He said her feet were dangling from the passenger side window.

"She said, 'Get me out of here,''' Tovar said.