On St. Patrick's Day, Roger and Gayle Pfiel relaxed at a party - a respite from their waking nightmare, the murder accusation against their youngest son that had hung over their family for more than a year.

      They returned home to find a cataclysm.Six squad cars and two ambulances lined the pothole-scarred rural road that separated their large and isolated Tudor home from a fallow cornfield.

      Inside, their elder son lay dead, beaten with a baseball bat, his throat slashed with a meat cleaver. A young family member, the one whose hysterical telephone call had summoned help, had been raped.

      For a family that already had too much grief to bear, there was one more terrible blow in store.

      Police told them it was not an intruder who was responsible for the violence, but Steven - the baby-faced, 18-year-old son who had been charged with killing a young girl 20 months before.

      The son for whom they posted a $100,000 bond and moved the family to the rural home when the taunts and glares of neighbors became too much. The son who, days later, penned a note to his parents from a jail cell.

      "Mom and dad," Steven Pfiel wrote, "now I've killed two people."


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      "Wouldn't it be cool," Pfiel once told his friend Ed Prasauskas, "to stab someone in the head with this?"

      In his hands he held a knife. He had pulled it from under the car seat, Prasauskas told the Chicago Tribune.

      After the murders, those who knew Steven Pfiel searched their memories for indications of murderous rage in a boy who was raised under comfortable circumstances, in a ranch house under towering oaks.

      Prasauskas, 18, remembered seeing his friend smash his stereo speakers with a pool cue; others recalled that he had been arrested once for smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol outside of his home.

      Pfiel reveled in shooting pool, riding in fast cars and cranking up the volume when he listened to metal bands. He ran with a fast crowd at Stagg High School, where his record was unremarkable.

      Pfiel knew Hillary Norskog, though they were just acquaintances. Hillary was 13, about to enter high school.

      She was just starting to spend evenings away from the watchful eyes of her single mother. On July 14, 1993, she kissed her mom goodbye; she would likely party with friends, she said, and spend the night with a girlfriend.

      Hillary and her friends headed to Hidden Pond Woods in a nearby forest preserve. The teens sat at picnic tables, laughed, drank a couple beers. At some point, Hillary apparently decided against spending the night at her girlfriend's. She left the forest preserve in time to meet her 10:30 curfew.

      Friends say that Steven Pfiel, just turned 17, offered her a ride home.

      Three days later, two people walking behind a subdivision of million dollar homes not far from Hidden Pond found Hillary's 80-pound body in a field of weeds. Beaten, stabbed and too decomposed to immediately identify, investigators recognized the Jurassic Park T-shirt her mother had described.

      "She was so tiny," Norskog said. "She never had a chance."


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      Steven was arrested July 20 outside of his family's Palos Park home, a short car ride from Hillary's condominium. He told police the blood red stains that covered the seats of his 1988 Chevrolet were Kool-Aid.

      He remained behind bars until Oct. 3, when his parents posted $100,000 of a $1 million bond.

      Although Hilary's mother Marsha Norskog kept intense pressure on prosecutors and police, the case against Steven was delayed again and again as attorneys wrangled over DNA evidence and its admissibility.

      The trial has been put off once again, until June 21. Pfiel has been found fit to stand trial, but prosecutors and defense attorneys say they are working on plea agreements in both the Norskog case and the murder and rape case.

      Norskog has long been convinced of Steven's guilt. Last November, as he left the courtroom, she leaned from her seat and hissed in a stage whisper, "Why don't you go kill someone else? You're already killing me."

      The Pfiels, meanwhile, sat behind their youngest son at every court hearing and continued to back him publicly.

      Media scrutiny had become excruciating, and the Pfiels decided to move with their children to St. John, Ind., just across the stateline.

      They changed their minds after St. John residents learned of the plan - Norskog acknowledges playing a role - and mounted a letter-writing campaign to urge the Pfiels to go elsewhere.

      The family settled instead in rural Crete, more than 30 miles from Palos Park. The 4,500-square-foot house was purchased quietly, for about $200,000 in cash, through the Pfiel's lawyer. He referred to his clients by first name only, said sources familiar with the negotiations.

      "We thought they were in the federal witness protection program," said a neighbor who requested anonymity.

      Other than a rowdy teen party late last summer, neighbors say they kept to themselves, the Pfiels kept to themselves.

      By several accounts, Steven remained tight with his brother Roger, older by one year. Roger defended his sibling against those who believed him guilty.

      "They were really close," said friend Shawn Baker.


      * * *


      On the night of March 17, Roger and Gayle Pfiel left home for the 50-mile drive to Chicago and the St. Patrick's Day party. In the hours after they left, the Pfiel home became a slaughterhouse.

      How it came to pass, police do not know. But at 7:13 a.m. on Saturday, they received a frantic call from a young female family member, asking for help.

      By the time police arrived, Roger Pfiel was dead in a bedroom. Police say he had been bludgeoned and slashed. The young woman who alerted police had been raped. Steven Pfiel had fled the home, taking with him his father's shotgun and two rifles, said a deputy chief.

      Several hours later, Mayor Michael Einhorn heard a knock at the front door of Crete's tiny Village Hall.

      "I need to talk to somebody," said a young man wearing a black Metallica T-shirt. "I think I'm in some trouble."

      The mayor called police, who arrested Steven Pfiel. Sheriff's police say Steven made a full confession to his brother's death but gave no motive.

      Pfiel's parents have not visited their son since the day they found their lives undone.

      "It's a tremendous loss," said their attorney, Raymond Pijon. "I don't think there's any way to assess it. There are no magic words that make this go away."

      At his first court hearing after Roger Pfiel was killed, Steven was led through a phalanx of reporters on his way back to jail. "Steven, do you have anything to say?" shouted one of the reporters.

      Steven lifted both handcuffed hands, the middle finger on each extended upwards.