Man who sold gun used in Oak Brook ambush murder gets a year in prison
Dmitry Smirnov, charge in murder case of woman found shot to death in Oak Brook. 4/14/11 Photo submitted by the Oak Brook Police
Updated: October 24, 2012 10:13PM
A Seattle-area bartender who sold a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun to a Canadian man who used it to stalk and kill his ex-girlfriend in an Oak Brook parking lot ambush was sentenced Friday to a year in prison on a federal gun charge.
Benedict Ladera, 31, of Kent, Wash., pleaded guilty to the illegal transfer of a firearm to an out-of-state resident.
The gun buyer, Dmitry Smirnov, used the Smith & Wesson to shoot his former girlfriend Jitka Vesel a dozen times last year in an Oak Brook parking lot. Smirnov was sentenced to life in prison for the murder.
Smirnov met Vesel over the Internet in 2008 and traveled to the Chicago area to live with her for about three weeks. But when he returned to his home near Vancouver in 2009, their relationship faltered.
Two years later, Smirnov was still enraged about their break-up and arranged online to buy the Smith & Wesson from Ladera. On April 1, 2011, he drove to the Seattle area to pick up the gun, authorities said.
Then he traveled to the Chicago area. He glued a GPS device to Vesel’s car and tracked the Westmont woman for several days. On April 13, 2011, he ambushed her in the parking lot of the Czechoslovak Heritage Museum, where she volunteered. He pumped a dozen bullets into her. DuPage County authorities said Smirnov researched Illinois law and found that legislators had recently abolished the death penalty.
He told a DuPage County judge last July that he killed Vesel, “because you can’t just expect to just dump someone like that and ignore them for two years and . . . to get away with it with no consequences and, you know, just waste someone’s life like that.” Vesel’s relatives in the courtroom wept as he said it.
Oak Brook detectives and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives learned the gun was originally purchased on Feb. 24, 2011, at Federal Way Discount Guns outside Seattle.
The buyer told investigators he waited several weeks before re-selling the weapon to a man named “Benny” for about $400. Benny is short for Benedict, which is Ladera’s first name.
ATF agents went to Ladera’s home and interviewed him. He admitted he had sold about 20 guns over the previous year — including one to a “Russian dude” around April 1.
The Russian dude — Smirnov — saw the Smith & Wesson advertised on an Internet site and arranged to buy it from Ladera at a casino outside Seattle.
During the sale, Smirnov told Ladera he was from Canada, was staying in the area for a few weeks and needed a gun because he had recently been robbed, authorities said.
Ladera said he initially wanted $400 for the gun but took an extra $200 from Smirnov because he was from Canada.
Ladera urged the court to sentence him to probation because he was simply selling his possessions to “make ends meet.”
But federal prosecutors had asked for a 14-month term, saying Ladera demonstrated “a reckless disregard for the use to which Smirnov would put the firearm. Sadly, those consequences could have been dire: the murder of Jitka Vesel.”