Thursday, October 18, 2007

Naivete and Speed Make a Great Combination

By Kevin Guilfoile

"It didn't work. I want to die. You don't understand. I want to be dead."

Those were words allegedly spoken to paramedics by Jeanette Sliwinski, the 23-year-old Chicago model who two years ago drove her red Mustang convertible at almost 90 miles an hour into the back of a Honda Civic, killing three Chicago musicians on their way to lunch. Sliwinski's trial began this week and it's not an underreported story, at least not around here. The papers are giving it prime space. The blogs are all over it. The local television stations have reporters at the Skokie courthouse. Even the national networks have nosed into the proceedings because of the bizarre nature of the charges and also, undoubtedly, because the defendant is as easy on the eyes as she is hard to stomach. There really shouldn't be much for me to add.

Except that Jeanette Sliwinski murdered my friend.

We have a tendency to sentimentalize the character of the unfairly and prematurely dead, but I could produce a hundred witnesses to tell you that Doug Meis wasn't a guy you even had to know well before you grew to love him. You only had to watch him play the drums. He always had this incredible look, this incredible, transparent look of undiluted joy on his face. His elbows moved around his hands in these wild and joyous, concentric and eccentric orbits. Whenever I brought someone to see the band Exo play for the first time, they always said the same thing to me during the rare silence--God, I can't take my eyes off that drummer! It was impossible to watch Doug play and not know how much fun he was having. And it was impossible to be around him and not have that much fun.

On the morning of July 14, 2005, Jeanette Sliwinski got into a fight with her mother and climbed into her sports car with a bottle of gin and the intention to kill herself. But she wasn't only going to kill herself. She was going to do it in a way that would punish her mother and everyone else that had made her life so unbearably unhappy. Her suicide was going to be a spectacular one. She would kill herself violently. She would kill other people in the process. It would be on the television. In the newspapers. And the long list of people who had wronged Jeanette Sliwinski would have to live with all that blood and destruction forever on their consciences.

Her first thought was to drive into a train, but when she got to the tracks there was no train there. Angry and determined, she pushed the accelerator to the floor. She ran through one red light. A second. A third. Her life would end when something, and hopefully someone, stopped her car.

Michael Dahlquist, John Glick, and Doug Meis had just left the offices of Shure Microphones to get a bite for lunch. They were stopped at a red light on Dempster, waiting to make a left hand turn toward Wendy's.

Sliwinski spotted the rear of their car, retargeted her eight-cylinder missile, and gunned it.

According to Sliwinski's interpretation of the vague, unwritten laws in her head, maybe she thought this couldn't be a homicide. At the moment Sliwinski decided she would never again press the brake of her car, she had never seen Michael Dahlquist, John Glick, or Doug Meis. In the tiny universe with Jeanette Sliwinski at its center, these individuals didn't exist any more than a city in China she'd never heard of. How could she kill someone who wasn't alive? This was the brilliance of her plan. At the very moment these men would enter the plane of her existence, Jeanette Sliwinski would leave it. Her mother and all her other enemies would feel the anguish of the dead she would leave behind, but Jeanette never would.

She would be out of there.

Sliwinski's lawyers are going to try to spin her pathological narcissism as insanity. They've asked for a bench trial, probably deciding that between the testimony of appalled witnesses and the grief of the victims' families and the inevitable slide show of the defendant's glamour shots, she would never get a moment's sympathy from a midwestern jury. Instead they will put five psychologists on a full court press, trying to hang their hopes on a judge's interpretation of insanity law.

But Jeanette was not temporarily delusional, as her lawyers will claim. In fact her plan unfolded almost exactly as she imagined it would. There was violence. Blood. Death. Destruction. Headlines. Her mother was shocked, shamed, humbled, and humiliated. The only part of her scheme that didn't come together perfectly is that she wasn't crushed to death. In accordance with one of God's favorite jokes, she only fractured her ankle. The impact had injected the endless, incurable pain and sorrow of other people's suffering into her own soul, not somebody else's. And now she has forever to think about how good her life used to be.

After hearing the deafening crash, the manager of a nearby mattress store ran out into the street, a demonstration pillow still in his hands. He saw Sliwinski's overturned car, with the model's slightly injured foot sticking out the window. The lifeless body of one of her victims was splayed on the nearby concrete.

"Get me out of here!" he heard Sliwinski demand.

No, Jeanette. You're stuck here with the grieving rest of us.

UPDATE: Jeanette Sliwinski was found guilty, but mentally ill, of three counts of reckless homicide and one count of aggravated battery, lesser charges than the three counts of first-degree murder sought by the prosecution. Sentencing will be November 26. Channel 7 says she faces a maximum of ten years. The Associated Press says a maximum of five.


spyscribbler said...

Dear God. I hadn't heard. The death penalty would be like giving her what she wants. Too bad they don't have a lifetime-of-torture penalty.

I'm not usually that cold, but geeze.

I would have liked your friend, a lot. Half of me is a musician, and even I have rarely seen that kind of joy.

I feel for everyone grieving. I'm so sorry ...

Barbara D'Amato said...

It's beyond words. I'm so sorry, Kevin.

Josephine Damian said...

"According to Sliwinski's interpretation of the vague, unwritten laws in her head, maybe she thought this couldn't be a homicide."

Those jurors are going to be instructed to follow a very different set of laws. Let's hope they fry the bitch or at least send her to jail for the rest of her life.

"Pretty" sure hasn't helped Britney Spears or Paris Hilton when it comes to the judge.

Kevin, so sorry for the loss of your friend.

Kevin Guilfoile said...

Thanks, everyone. All our thoughts should be with the families of those men and with the people who knew Doug and John and Michael even better than I did. This is a tough week for them.

Ted Barlow said...

Doug was a beloved friend of mine. In fact, he was the drummer for a band I used to sing for. Every word Kevin says is true- Doug was one of the kindest, funniest people I've had the pleasure to know. He was the kind of guy who would have given the shirt off his back to anyone in need.

With his energy and humor, Doug was the natural center of any room he was in. A lot of people would just enjoy that kind of popularity. Doug was a better person than that. (He was a better person than me.) Over and over, I saw him find someone who was lost in the crowd, someone who didn't fit in, and help them. He would bring them in and be their friend. Part of the sick irony of this story is that if Sliwinski had ever met Doug, he would have bent over backwards to help her out.

I'm on an email listserv with the woman who was Doug's long-time girlfriend at the time of his death. It's really hard to take sometimes. This wonderful woman should have spent the last few years writing stories about Doug's jokes, and how hard it is to find a vegan caterer, and that sort of thing. Instead, she's been giving us updates about all the hearings she's attending. I get so angry about it sometimes.

Jesus Christ, I'm crying.

You know what would be a nice addition to this post? A link to one of Doug's other bands, The Dials ( Not only was Doug the drummer for the Dials, but the bassist, Rebecca Crawford, was the wife of John Glick, another one of Sliwinski's victims. I can't even begin to imagine her suffering. But it doesn't take any sort of sympathy vote to say that their album Flex Time is an absolute joy. I'd imagine that they get compared to Sleater-Kinney a lot, just because they're two bands with dual female vocalists who understand the joy of countermelody in rock music. If Sleater-Kinney and the Ramones had a baby, it might sound something like this album. Really, it's wonderful.

(cross-posted at

Kevin Guilfoile said...

Ted, thanks for that. Every word is true. You meet two or three people in a lifetime as genuine as Doug Meis.

And thanks for that link to The Dials. I knew Doug through the guys in Exo, but talented as he was, Doug was a beloved member of multiple bands. And the best thing we can do this week is listen to the music these guys left us.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to learn about the loss of your friend. I hadn't heard about this awful murder case. What a horribly selfish act on the part of that woman. If there's any justice, she will get several long years in prison. Certainly, as bad as she must have thought her life was before she killed everyone, her life is about to get much, much worse.
With deepest sympathy,
Sarah Johnson Conroy

Matt said...

I remember the first time I saw Doug play drums for the Podapons (sp.?) at Ladyfest in 2000 and later with the Goblins in 2001 and I was always blown away by the way he played drums, he was a brilliant drummer, always beaming.
I play the drums in a few bands now, I learned so much by watching him. I wanted to be just like Doug -awesome. A few years later we(my band) played with the Dials and I met Doug in person. I truly miss him even though I didnt know him that well. This whole situation is disturbing. I cant imagine how this has changed peoples lives and my heart goes out to the friends and family of all the victims.

Pete said...

Kevin, I didn't realize you were personally connected to this senseless murder - I'm truly sorry for the loss of your friend. The death penalty would be too good for this woman - let's hope she doesn't get exactly what she wanted. Life imprisonment and 50+ years of regret should suffice, even if it won't bring those three guys back.

Maryann Mercer said...

You have my good thoughts and sympathy in this loss as do his family and other friends...I would have added prayers, but part of me would pray that justice give this woman the harshest sentence possible without ending her self-centered life. Her random choice of three people to use to satisfy her own ego is unforgiveable.
I remember hearing about the 'accident' when it happened. Let us hope the judges see through her 'insanity' ploy.
Thanks for posting this.

Joseph said...


I was Doug's college roommate and close friend here in Chicago. Thank you for sharing your memories of Doug, as memories like yours have kept us strong through even the most difficult of trial testimony. Here is a link to a short film I made about Doug and our college years:

Joseph said...

Or just click here to view the film about Doug.

Kevin Guilfoile said...

Joe, thanks so much for sharing that film. That was really, really moving and Doug would no doubt be pleased at how funny it is, too.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sad for your loss. And I'm so pleased that your wonderful friend has someone so eloquent to share with the world the simple greatness of this man and the unbelievable pain of absence that his death will bring to all who were close to him. Courage to you all.

name said...

Wonderful blog.

Anonymous said...

"ABOUT JEANETTE SLIWINSKI, convicted Model that killed 3 musicians".
By ,

I photographed Jeanette Sliwinski, "as a model", convicted model, accused of murder.

Back on Christmas 2004, it was a chilly December's evening. Jeanette showed up with that so called red Mustang convertible, that killed 3 musicians in skokie, il.
Jeanette came for a Glamour Photo Shoot, she was prepared, pleasant and very professional. We took almost 400 High resolution Photographs with my Nikon digital camera, that evening.

We started shooting by a Christmas tree (as you can see on the photos above) I was just capturing the moment while she was putting her lipstick & some make-up.

Then she wore a white bathing suit from than moment on, she capture me with her spider web of "Passion For Fashion", it's an unexplainable connection between a Model and a Photographer that makes magic, we didn't talk much, she was posing and I was shooting...
She knew too much... I can tell after photographing a few hundred Models, She had that special virtue to express herself by the motion of her body and the movement of her scarves that she played well like a pro.
I never met her before that was the first time we worked together, after re-scheduling each other quite a few times we finally got together for this shoot.

I understand that was she did is horrible, I feel very sorry for the families of those gentlemen that passed. God works in mysterious ways and I can only wonder why?

Going back to Jeanette Sliwinski, I'm not afraid to say that I enjoyed working with her.
What I can tell you about her Character is that; I've met many, many Models or pretty woman, however, very few had the personality, the professionalism, the passion, the balance & the patience to listen with out being a diva, like Jeanette was.

That evening we had a Great Photo Shoot, we became friends & business partners.
At that time my friend Dave & his associate were there too. After the shoot, Dave made a presentation about PPLS, ironically "Pre Paid Legal Services, Inc".

Jeanette liked the pitch and signed up under me, she became my direct business associate, from that moment on, we'd meet on a regular basis for presentations.
I'm deeply sorry what happened to those 3 innocent musicians that tragically crossed paths with Jeanette Sliwinski... However, I'm also deeply sorry for Jeanette... That could happen to any of us on a moment of rage & insanity.... Just my humble opinion...

Kind regards,

P.S. On the other hand, I've over 350 Exclusive, Never Published Glamour, Nikon High Resolution Photographs with Jeanette Sliwinski, in case someone is interested TO MAKE AN OFFER ASAP!. MUST GO BEFORE DECEMBER 31st!
Perfect for Print or even a Billboard... (I own copyright).

(You are welcome to publish this NOTE in its entirety ... with the proper credits... PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU DO PUBLISH IT... thank you IN ADVANCE!

Also Count on me "as an Adventurous Photographer that likes to take risks" for your projects in the Chicagoland area or Midwest states.

T: 773-501-8390

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Robin said...

I just saw the new episode of Snapped on the Oxygen channel. My heart goes out to all of the friends and family that lost these three men. I was horrified to learn that Sliwinski could be out on parole on only about a year and could get her license reinstated within 2 years after that. This is ridiculous!

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Anonymous said...

You used this to try and sell photos of this awful person? Scumbag move, bro.