Thursday, March 10, 2005

Lefkow killings: Not terrorism

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that a suicide in Wisconsin may have uncovered the identity of the person who killed Judge Lefkow's husband and mother -- and that person is not connected at all to the World Church of the Creator or any other white-supremacist movement:
Investigators today said a Chicago man who shot himself in the head during a traffic stop Wednesday evening in Wisconsin had a suicide note claiming responsibility for the slayings of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow's husband and mother last week.

Sources also said they recovered a stocking cap and coveralls from the van belonging to Bart Ross, possibly linking him to the sketch of the older of two suspicious individuals witnesses saw near the judge's Chicago home the day of the slayings.

"It was simply a suspicious vehicle. It turned out there could be much more involved here," West Allis Police Chief Dean Puschnig said at a news conference this morning in the Milwaukee suburb.

Separately, court documents show that in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Chicago, Ross blamed doctors for a medical procedure allegedly gone awry and lawyers and the courts for failing to give him relief. Lefkow dismissed the suit last September.

Other court records show Cook County sheriff's deputies attempted to serve Ross notice of eviction from his Northwest Side home on Feb. 28 -- the day someone shot execution-style Lefkow's husband and mother.

Given the abundance of other evidence at the scene, it seems highly likely this is indeed the killer. His note describes details only the killer could have known. Apparently he comes close to matching the elder of the two suspects police were seeking, taken from composite drawings.

The note also says he acted alone, and there's no suggestion he had an accomplice, either. The drawing of the older man was taken from a witness who saw someone lurking near the Lefkows' yard. The drawing of the younger man was taken from a witness who saw two men hanging out in a car in the neighborhood; that witness could only provide a composite for one of the two men.

So I think it's clear that, contrary to my speculation (and that of many others), this was not a case of domestic terrorism. The speculation was well-grounded and reasonable, but until we had more facts, it was always mere speculation.

What remains an interesting question, however, was the response on the extremist right, which amounted to reveling in the murders, not only as a "comeuppance," but also as a lever against other judges. It was a form of terroristic extortion: "Nice family you got there, judge. Be a shame to see anything happen to it."

I'll have more on that point soon.

UPDATE: Ross's DNA matches that found on the cigarette butt in the Lefkow home. That should seal it; the only potential remaining question is whether he acted alone, and there's no indication he didn't.

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