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Evidence Analyzed in Slayings of Judge's Family

The execution-style killings in Chicago prompt a call to reassess security arrangements for the federal judiciary.

March 03, 2005|Stephen Braun | Times Staff Writer

A window shard, spent shell casings and a bloody mop emerged as key pieces of evidence Wednesday in the apparent execution-style slayings of the husband and mother of a U.S. District Court judge in Chicago.

Returning to her home on the city's north side Monday, Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow discovered the bodies of her husband, Michael Lefkow, 64, and her mother, Donna Humphrey, 89. Both victims had been shot to death.

Authorities stressed that federal agents and local detectives had not narrowed the scope of their investigation. But several law enforcement officials and media reports Wednesday indicated that task force members were leaning toward considering it a premeditated crime. The victims apparently were forced to lie down on the basement floor before they were shot in the head and chest.

"There is nothing spur of the moment or anything that would indicate this was a crime of passion," one official said, adding that the slayings bore the hallmarks of "an execution."

Late Wednesday, police released sketches of two men seen near the home on the day of the slayings. Both men are white. The sketches are based on witness statements, police said. They gave no further details.

Investigators have sent a broken window pane to forensics analysts in an attempt to retrieve a fingerprint, Associated Press said Wednesday. Authorities also found a bloody shoe print and a blood-streaked mop, indicating there was an effort to clean up the crime scene, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Chicago Police Department spokesman David Bayless said that FBI forensics experts at the bureau's laboratory in Quantico, Va., would analyze ballistics evidence retrieved from the home. At least two .22-caliber shell cases reportedly were recovered from the Lefkow residence.

But Bayless and other officials would not provide details about evidence retrieved from the house.

A security detail of federal marshals was guarding Lefkow, 61, and other family members at an undisclosed location. The judge and her husband briefly received protection last year during the trial of a white supremacist whose case she had presided over, and who later was convicted of trying to arrange her murder.

The extremist leader, Matthew Hale, is awaiting sentencing next month.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday, Lefkow said she knew her job put her at risk but never thought it would endanger her family.

"It's so unthinkable," she said. "I imagine my husband must have just walked into something. Both of them were on crutches. They didn't have a chance." The judge's husband had recently injured his leg and had surgery.

Two U.S. District Court judges who work with Lefkow called for officials to reassess security arrangements for the nation's federal judiciary.

"This horrible tragedy has got to serve as the basis for a substantial increase in security for judges and their families," U.S. District Judge Wayne R. Andersen said.

"The Internet is plastered with information about every one of us, and I fear -- and my family certainly fears -- that these kinds of incidents are going to be repeated unless there is a very high priority on the safety of judges and their families."

U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen also asked for a new look at security measures.

Dan Lehmann, a spokesman for the U.S. Northern District of Illinois, said that Andersen had talked to Chief Judge Charles P. Kocoras about his concerns, and that other judges in Chicago were worried.

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