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No bond for Elgin man charged with strangling elderly neighbor

Matthew L. Stoeckle |  ElgPolice photo

Matthew L. Stoecklein | Elgin Police photo

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Updated: December 30, 2013 12:28PM

An Elgin man was ordered held without bond Thursday after he allegedly admitted to strangling his neighbor, an 88-year-old World War II veteran, for 10 minutes then stealing $300 from the dead man’s apartment.

Matthew L. Stoecklein, 55, was arrested late Wednesday and charged with first-degree murder, home invasion and robbery, Elgin police said Thursday.

The victim, John Poyer, who received a Purple Heart medal, was found dead at his home about 6:15 p.m. on Nov. 22 by family members who hadn’t heard from him in several days and went to check on him, police said.

About 8 p.m. on Nov. 21, Stoecklein knocked on Poyer’s apartment door, and was let in once he identified himself, according to Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Jason Coelho. Sometime after Stoecklein entered, Poyer was heard screaming before Stoecklein allegedly strangled him and took $300 from the apartment, Coelho said.

An acquaintance of Stoecklein’s approached police and said he would wear a wire to speak with Stoecklein about Poyer’s death. On tape, Stoecklein told the acquaintance he had strangled Poyer for 10 minutes before he died, an effort that left him very tired, prosecutors said.

An autopsy on Monday determined that Poyer died from strangulation.

Stoecklein, who has a previous felony drug conviction, lived in a second-floor apartment in the same building as Poyer, authorities said.

At a news conference Thursday morning, Poyer’s granddaughter, Lonna Zwerenz, 38, said he was a widower with four children, 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, including one due to be born next month.

Poyer was a union carpenter who ran several Elgin-area restaurants with his late wife, Helen. Knowing a homeless man scavenged in his restaurant’s dumpster, Poyer would cook extra food to give him instead, his family said.

He received his Purple Heart after his legs were nearly amputated when they froze in a trench while he served overseas. Although navigating the stairs at his apartment building was becoming difficult, Poyer still went to The Centre of Elgin five days a week, walking the track, riding a stationary bike or working out with light free weights to stay in shape, his family said.

“He’s been my everything since the day I was born,” said Alexis Zwerenz, 16, Poyer’s great-granddaughter. “The person that did this shattered my entire world.”

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