Holding his 2-and-a-half-week-old baby in his arms, Zak Kustok wanted it to be known he appeared in the Cook County courtroom where his dad is being tried for his mom's murder for one reason and one reason only.
“I’m here in support of my wife, Nicole,” Zak Kustok said, after his wife testified Wednesday about Allan Kustok's interest in his son learning how to fire a handgun.
"I'm not supporting my father."
Zak, 35, spoke exclusively Wednesday to Southtown columnist Phil Kadner in the basement of the Bridgeview courthouse, telling him that he feared his appearance at the trial may be misconstrued by observers.
“There have been reports in the news media that I was supporting my father,” Kustok told Kadner. “I have never made any statements in support of him.
“In fact, I have had many requests for interviews and have not responded until now. But I want to make it clear that I have never said anything in support of my father previously, and those reports were misleading.”
Kustok, now 63, is accused of murdering his wife, Anita "Jeanie" Kustok, 58, by shooting her in the head in their bed with a .357-caliber handgun in September 2010. Together, the Kustoks raised Zak, a star quarterback at Sandburg High School in Orland Park and Northwestern University, and Sarah, a volleyball standout in high school and now a TV sports reporter.
Central to the case against their father is the prosecution's contention that Allan Kustok — who carried on many secret affairs and dalliances with women he met online or in his social circles — was eager to get out of his marriage.
Zak, who sells medical supplies, is now a father of two. How he's responding to the family tragedy and the revelations of his father's behavior, at least publicly, speaks to his mother's significant influence: “My mother taught me to take pride in being a good husband, a good father, a good man. She took pride in being a good person.”
And that's why he shared what he's thinking as his father stands trial.
“I honestly feel I am one of the luckiest people on earth,” he told Kadner. "Really, I wake up every day next to my wife and feel so lucky. I look at the parents with kids in Children’s Memorial Hospital, sick kids, and think that I am a very lucky person.
“I have my two children (the oldest is 15 months) and my wife. And my mother always told me 'God never hands you more than you can deal with.' I made up my mind early on that I was not going to let this affect my kids.
“I have two little kids who I will spend the rest of my life teaching right and wrong. ... Someday I am going to have to explain this to them. They may go back and look at the stories being written, and how do I explain to them that I said nothing at the time?
“As a father, husband and a man, I don’t support the actions and decisions that have been stated regarding my father’s behavior. I feel to be viewed as supporting the man would be seen as some form of acceptance of his behavior. That’s not the man I am.
“And years from now, when my two children grow up and look back on this, I want them to know that I was true to the things I believe in and stood up for them.”
Does he believe his father shot his mother to death in the family home?
“I’m not comfortable commenting on that,” he told Kadner.
Read Phil Kadner's Column: For more on the divide in the family, how they spent the holidays, and the power of Christ and forgiveness in Zak Kustok's life, find Kadner's column on SunTimes.com
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