White supremacists committing murder?
Date: March 02, 2005 06:44AM
Judge Put Under Protection After Husband and Mother Are Killed
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: March 1, 2005
Filed at 4:20 p.m. ET
CHICAGO (AP) -- A federal judge who was once the target of a failed murder plot by a white supremacist was under marshals' protection Tuesday following the shooting deaths of her husband and 89-year-old mother, and investigators were looking into possible connections to hate groups, among other leads.
U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow found the bodies of Michael F. Lefkow, 65, and her mother, Donna Humphrey, when she returned home from work Monday evening, according to authorities and friends.
White supremacist Matthew Hale, 33, who was convicted in April 2004 of soliciting an undercover FBI informant to kill her, is awaiting sentencing on murder solicitation and obstruction of justice.
Authorities acknowledged the possibility that hate groups could be involved in the killings but cautioned against early conclusions.
``There is much speculation about possible links between this crime and the possible involvement of hate groups. This is but one facet of our investigation,'' James Molloy, Chicago's chief of detectives, said at a news conference.
``We are looking in every direction and will follow the evidence wherever it takes us,'' he said.
Detectives also were searching for clues in other cases over which Lefkow has presided.
Hale gained notoriety in 1999 when a follower, Benjamin Smith, went on a shooting rampage in Illinois and Indiana. Targeting minorities, Smith killed two people, including former Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong, and wounded nine others before killing himself as police closed in.
The bodies of the judge's husband and mother were in the basement of the home in a prosperous North Side neighborhood with gunshot wounds to the head, according to a federal source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
No weapon was recovered, but police found two .22-caliber casings, said another source close to the investigation. That source also said police found a broken window at the house.
Lefkow, 61, and her surviving family were placed under the protection of the U.S. Marshals Service, said Charles P. Kocoras, the chief federal judge for the Northern District of Illinois.
``All of us are horrified by the murder of Judge Lefkow's husband and mother. Nothing can prepare us for such a stunning, tragic event,'' Kocoras said in a statement.
Lefkow received police protection after Hale was arrested in January 2003. Prosecutors alleged that Hale was angry because Lefkow, presiding over a copyright infringement suit, ruled that he could no longer use the name World Church of the Creator for his group since another organization had a copyright on that name.
The protection detail was discontinued after Hale's conviction, said Shannon Metzger, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service. That protection would have been continued if Lefkow had wanted it, Metzger stressed.
No other judges in the district were placed under special protection following Monday's killings, Metzger said.
An Internet search of supremacist discussion forums Tuesday found links to photos of Lefkow's husband and daughters, as well as excerpts from Michael Lefkow's biography from the Web site for his law office. Some new postings had articles about the killings with the comment ``RAHOWA!'', meaning ``racial holy war.'' Others speculated that the government was behind the killings.
In one 2003 discussion on a white nationalist Web site, members talked about the case against Hale and posted the Lefkows' home address.
Hale's father, retired East Peoria policeman Russell Hale, offered condolences to Lefkow's family, but said his son could not have been involved in the deaths because he is under constant surveillance in jail. ``There would be no way he could order anything. It's ridiculous,'' Russell Hale told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. He maintains that his son was wrongfully convicted.
Lefkow served as a federal magistrate and a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge before President Clinton nominated her for the District Court bench in 2000.
Friends described the Lefkows as a model family. They had four daughters plus a fifth from his previous marriage. ``This is someone who adored his daughters,'' Nan Sullivan said. ``They were the kind of family everyone aspires to be, very close-knit, very supportive.''
Longtime friends Thomas and Phyllis Robb said neither of the Lefkows ever expressed any concern about their safety, even after Hale's arrest.
``They were in our home many times before we realized we had the FBI outside,'' said Thomas Robb. ``They are just not people who let their fears contain them.'' But he said the victims were ``very vulnerable'' because the mother needed two canes to walk and the husband had used crutches since surgery last week to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Hale never testified during his two-week trial. His attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, called no witnesses, saying the prosecution's evidence was the weakest he had seen in a major case.
A key witness, Anthony Evola, testified he secretly taped Hale for the FBI while posing as a follower. Among the conversations were ones in which they discussed the judge.
``Are we gonna exterminate the rat?'' Evola can be heard asking Hale, who responds a short time later: ``I'm going to fight within the law and, but, ... if you wish to, ah, do anything, yourself, you can.''
The defense argued that Hale never asked anyone to kill the judge and that the FBI used Evola to draw him into a murder plot.