CHICAGO (AP) — A federal judge who was once the target of a failed murder plot by a white supremacist was under marshals’ protection yesterday after the shooting deaths of her husband and mother.
Investigators were looking into connections to hate groups, among other leads.
U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow found the bodies of Michael F. Lefkow, 65, and Donna Humphrey, 89, when she returned home from work Monday evening, authorities and friends said.
White supremacist Matthew Hale, 33, who was convicted in April of soliciting an undercover FBI informant to kill Judge Lefkow, is awaiting sentencing on murder solicitation and obstruction of justice. Authorities 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,” said James Molloy, Chicago’s chief of detectives.
Hale gained notoriety in 1999 when a follower, Benjamin Smith, went on a shooting rampage in Illinois and Indiana. Targeting minorities, Smith killed two persons, including former Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong, and wounded nine others before killing himself as police surrounded him.
The bodies of the judge’s husband and mother were in the home’s basement with gunshot wounds to the head, said a federal source who spoke on the 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 family friends said both victims relied on crutches or canes to walk and would have been easy to overpower.
Judge 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.
Hale’s father, retired East Peoria policeman Russell Hale, dismissed the notion that his son might have been involved in the slayings, saying he is under constant surveillance by authorities.
“There would be no way he could order anything,” the elder Mr. Hale said. “It’s ridiculous.”
His son is being held at a detention center in downtown Chicago, where he is isolated from other prisoners. When attorneys visit, Hale must be escorted to the meeting in handcuffs by three guards.
By yesterday morning, news articles of the killings had been posted on white supremacist Web sites, along with “RAHOWA!,” meaning “racial holy war.”
In a copyright infringement lawsuit, Judge Lefkow ruled that Hale could no longer use the name World Church of the Creator for his group because another organization had a copyright on the name.
The protection detail was discontinued after Hale’s conviction, said Shannon Metzger, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service.