CHICAGO (AP) — Authorities investigating the execution-style killings of a federal judge’s husband and mother have interviewed relatives of a white supremacist convicted of plotting to kill the judge and talked to anti-hate groups that compile photos of extremists.
Police have said white supremacist groups are just one aspect of their investigation, but several people with intimate knowledge of the groups say they have been questioned by both detectives and the FBI.
Matthew Hale, convicted last year of soliciting an FBI informant to kill U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, has been questioned in the jail where he is awaiting sentencing and denies any involvement, his parents told The Associated Press.
“There is no way that any supporter of mine could commit such a heinous crime,” Hale said in statement released Thursday through his mother. “I totally condemn it.”
Chicago police were not publicly discussing the investigation Thursday. Members of anti-hate groups in the area that compile files on extremists said investigators had met with them.
Adam Schupack, associate director of the Chicago area Anti-Defamation League, said the ADL began reviewing its files after police released sketches late Wednesday of two men seen near the Lefkow home around the time of the killings Monday. He said investigators reached out to his group Thursday; he wouldn’t discuss specifics.
Devin Burghart of the Center for New Community, a Chicago-based human rights organization, also declined to discuss his group’s conversation Thursday with investigators.
The shootings came a month before Hale was to be sentenced by another judge for soliciting an undercover FBI informant to kill Lefkow after she ordered him to change the name of his extremist group as part of a trademark lawsuit.
Lefkow arrived home after work Monday to find her husband, attorney Michael Lefkow, 64, and her mother, Donna Humphrey, 89, slain in the basement. Both victims had been shot multiple times, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. A source told the AP that police found two .22-caliber casings.
Experts are analyzing several pieces of evidence from the home and neighborhood, including a broken window with a fingerprint, a bloody footprint and cigarette butts. The Chicago Tribune, citing unidentified sources, said a federal grand jury had been convened to issue subpoenas.
Police also have released sketches of two “persons of interest” seen near Lefkow’s home the day of the slayings. U.S. marshals looked for men Thursday resembling those in the sketches, and authorities were expected to announce a $50,000 reward Friday for leads in their investigation, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in Friday editions.
Authorities questioned Hale on Tuesday, and he denied any involvement in the killings, his father, retired East Peoria police officer Russell Hale, said Thursday.
Hale’s father said he has not been contacted by the FBI, but other relatives have, including another son and his ex-wife. Family members say the FBI has inquired about the whereabouts of relatives when Lefkow’s husband and mother were killed.
Russell Hale said he doesn’t know who is behind the killings. He said he spoke to his jailed son by telephone Thursday morning and said the younger Hale was despondent over the turn of events and “knows it’s going to bode terribly bad for him if they don’t find out who did this.”
Federal agents this week also interviewed Hal Turner, the former host of a radio show that espoused hatred of gays, Jews, blacks and other minorities. He said federal authorities have focused on him because two years ago he said on the air that Lefkow “was worthy of being killed.”
On Thursday, he said he was home in New Jersey on Monday and had nothing to do with the killings. He also defended his earlier statements.
“If I say some politician should be assassinated, that’s an opinion. If I say, `Let’s go kill so-and-so,’ that’s solicitation of murder,” Turner said. “It’s a very fine line, and sometimes people can’t distinguish.”